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Robert J. Halm (b. June 9, 1922, d. December 26, 2011), an American artist and art educator whose career spanned over 60 years. Halm’s work flirts with the American scene, most specifically to Iowa and the Great Lakes region. In an artist’s statement, Halm described his work in the following way:
“The landscape genre has been a staple of the American painting tradition for a long time; it affords the painter with the utmost possibilities. There is a certain freedom in depicting landscape. Experiencing nature, observing nature triggers the imagery in my landscape compositions. I paint in response to that special experience, translating it onto the stark, white space of the canvas surface. My art making is done in the studio working from memory, selecting images that generate a painting.”
Having a strong appreciation of nature, Halm’s most notable works incorporate subject matter ranging from birds and seascapes, to flowers and farmscapes. Inspirational influences include Mauricio Lasansky and Lester Longman. In his free time, Halm was a voracious reader. He also enjoyed gardening, nature, and traveling. Undoubtedly, these hobbies provided fuel for his flow of creativity.
Halm was born in Thomas Township, Saginaw County, Michigan to parents who worked in the Columbia Mills factory. In the mid-1930s, Halm entered a drawing contest. Some time later, a man associated with the contest knocked on their door and told his parents “this young man can draw”.
His early art life focused on his love of cartooning. When he entered the Theatre Service Forces, European Theater of the US Army Corps based in Cheltenham, England, Halm created cartoon postcards that he sent home each week as he corresponded with his parents. After the war ended, Halm returned home and enrolled in Michigan State University. In 1948 he completed a BA with a major in journalism. Halm then obtained a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 1950 at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa).
After graduating from the University of Iowa, Halm took his first teaching position in Fort Dodge, Iowa. There he met Eloise Rust who was starting the elementary art program for the Fort Dodge school system. In 1952 the couple married, launching a creative synergy that influenced their work as well as that of many students.1
From 1950-1966 Halm was an art educator at Fort Dodge Community College and Fort Dodge Senior High School. In 1966, he became an art professor at Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) until his retirement from teaching in 1989. While at ICCC, Halm taught Studio Art Fundamentals I and II, Painting I and II, and Art History, as well as adult education courses.
In addition to teaching, Halm was active in the local art scene. From 1954-1966, he was the Director of the Blanden Art Gallery (now the Blanden Memorial Art Museum) in Fort Dodge, Iowa. During his tenure at the Blanden, Halm initiated the Blanden’s summer art program.2 Later, he served on the Board of Trustees of the Blanden Memorial Art Museum (1968 to 1986),3 where he was a volunteer docent4 for many years until his death. Over the span of his career, Halm also judged many art shows.5
In addition to his work with the Blanden, Halm was a member of the Executive Board of the Fort Dodge Federation of Arts for nearly 25 years (1951 to 1975). His volunteerism did not end with the arts however. Halm’s avid interest in history spurred his involvement in archiving artifacts at the Webster County Historical Society.6 Halm was also a member of the Golden Kiwanis League of Fort Dodge.
In collaboration with Halm’s children (Margo Halm, Marsha Knapp, Dan Halm, and Dave Halm), the Blanden Memorial Art Museum published a 2012 calendar showcasing four decades of his paintings.7
EXHIBITIONS & AWARDS
Juried Exhibitions • Iowa State Fair Art Salon, 1950 (award), 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1963 • Des Moines Art Center, Iowa Artists, 1951, 1954, 1955 • Terry International Show, Miami, Florida, 1952 (award) • Print Society American Graphic Artists, New York City, 1953 • Sioux City Art Center, Siouxland Watercolor Show, 1956
Solo Exhibitions • Blanden Art Gallery (Museum), Iowa, 1954, 1974 • Fisher Center, Marshalltown, Iowa, 1964 • Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa, 1971 • Waterloo Art Association Gallery (Museum), Iowa, 1972 • Realization: A Retrospective of Paintings, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, 1999 8,9
Group Exhibitions • Invitational Show, Waterloo Recreational Center, 1965 • Artists Equity Show, Bradenton, Florida, 1967 • Iowa Women’s’ Club Traveling Show, Alexander, Iowa, 1968 • Iowa Arts Council Traveling Show, 1968, 1969, 1970 • Governor’s Suite, State Capital, Invitational, 1968, 1970 • Area Art Educator’s Exhibition, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, 1976, 1979 1987 • Area Five Art Teacher’s Juried Exhibition, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, 1982 (award)
2. Blanden Memorial Art Museum Summer Youth Art Camp.
3. Blanden Memorial Board of Trustees. http://www.fortdodgeiowa.org/department/board.php?fDD=6-183
4. Blanden Memorial Art Museum Bulletin. http://www.blanden.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Blanden-Bulletin-February-May-2012 .pdf
6. Webster County Historical Society. http://www.billgibbs.net/history/newsletter2.htm
8. Realization: A Retrospective of Paintings by Robert Halm http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/1aa/1aa6.htm
9. American 20th Century Landscape Painting. http://www.tfaoi.com/articles/subjects/20land.htm
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