Killam, Walt

Killam, Walter (“Walt”) Milton (1907-1979)

Walt Killam was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1907. His WPA biography stated that he “earned his way through High School by conducting a dance orchestra.” He attended the Rhode Island School of Design from 1924-1928. He told the WPA that “he has succeeded in art only by forgetting, through work, the credos that were thrust upon him in Art School.” Killam held a variety of jobs including house painter, carpenter, shoe salesman, grocery clerk, gas station attendant, and stone cutter. In the art world, he taught at the Millbrook Boys’ School in New York in 1933 and 1936, was a guest instructor in advanced painting and drawing at the Minneapolis School of Art from 1936-1938, and taught art at the Noank Connecticut Summer School. He was an artist of marine subjects and a member of the Mystic Art and Essex Art Associations and the Noank Watercolor Society. Killam exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, and places within Connecticut such as the Mystic Art Association and Silvermine Guild of Artists. He became involved in the Public Works of Art Project in New York City as a supervisor in charge of four hundred mural and easel painters. From 1935 to 1936 he was a supervisor of the Dutchess County, New York Public Works of Art Project. In 1938 he began painting for the Connecticut Federal Arts Project completing 41 easel paintings. Killam retired from painting in 1960, and he and his wife concentrated on their Chinese and Japanese antique business in Chester. He also raised bonsai trees and belonged to the Bonsai International and American Bonsai Societies. He became involved in the Chester Historical Society and served on the Chester Conservation Commission. Killam died in 1979 in San Jose, California.

 Sources: WPA Artist’s Work Card; WPA Biography; AskART; Who Was Who In American Art (1985), p. 136; New York Times articles:  Edward Alden Jewell, “Rambles in Connecticut,” August 25, 1935; Stuart Preston, “Up In Connecticut,” September 5, 1954; Stuart Preston, “Summer Shows In Connecticut,” July 31, 1955; Francis Phipps, “Netsuke: Miniature Sculpture,” January 13, 1980; Hartford Courant articles:  “Walt Killain [sic] Has Exhibit At Gallery,” January 28, 1940; “CD Course Will Open June 7,” December 28, 1963; C. A. Marland, “Couple Build Oriental Corner in Chester,” March 1, 1970; “Exhibit To Show Old Oriental Art,” January 23, 1973; “Man Elected Chairman of Conservation Agency,” February 13, 1973; Charles Marland, “Chester Man Practices Oriental Art of Stunting Tree Growth,” October 21, 1973; “Committee Compiling Book on Italians,” February 16, 1975; “Chester Plant Business,” May 19, 1976; Obituary, July 19, 1979.

Works of Art Listed in CT Archives’ database from Walt Killam:

Killam, Walt