A Mississippi native, Willie Ray Parish attended the University of Mississippi on a football scholarship, graduating in 1970 with a BFA in sculpture. He earned an MFA at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1978, returning to Mississippi to direct the Education Department and the New South Film Center at the Mississippi Museum of Art.
In 1981 he joined the art faculty at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He moved to the University of Texas at El Paso in 1984 where he ran the sculpture program and twice served as the Art Department Chair. In May 2013 he retired from teaching after a 32-year university career and recieved the status of Professor Emiritus.
Parish’s works are featured in numerous public and private collections including the El Paso Museum of Art, the Mississippi Museum of Art, Washington D.C.’s Newseum, the Albuquerque Museum of Art, and Earthship Biotecture in Taos.
He is founder and Director of the Border Art Residency and, with his wife, artist Becky Hendrick, hosted the program on their property in La Union, New Mexico from 2000 to 2015. The couple divides their time between Tucson, Arizona, and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico.