Monday Q&A: Boca Art Museum’s Walter O’Neill

Walter O'Neill

Walter O’Neill





We recently caught up with Walter O’Neill, who was recently named Director of the Boca Raton Museum Art School.

We understand you moved here from New York, just like many of us here in Boca. Give us a little background on your career, background in the arts, and your initial impression of the area and the school:

My initial interest in art was nurtured in the Saturday art classes for teenagers in the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey.    While I have worked in museums and art schools for over 35 years this new job brings me back to the rare institution that is both a museum and an art school.  As an artist/educator I have been lucky to work in great organizations including The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu and the Skowhegan Art Residency Program in Maine and now for the Boca Raton Museum of Art. For the past 15 years I managed the Educational Alliance Art School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The alumni of this legendary community art school include Ben Shahn, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko as well as a few people who are currently students at the Boca Museum Art School.

I have worked in beautiful places, from Malibu to Maine, and each day I ride my bike to work I am astounded by the beauty of the vegetation and landscape of Palm Beach county and particularly Boca Raton.  (I once quit a job after 3 months because the commute to work was ugly and depressing.)


As the director of the Boca Raton Museum Art School, can you tell us a little bit about the school and its goals?

Both the Museum and the Art School grew out of the original Artist’s Guild so our focus is on high quality art production.  The Art School is a vibrant community art center with a dedicated faculty of accomplished artists.  As a comprehensive art center we offer classes in a wide range of mediums and techniques, from stone carving to abstract painting and digital photography. Integral to the educational process and support of students, each student has the opportunity to exhibit in a group exhibit in our gallery.

What types of programs do you offer students?

We offer courses and special workshops for children teens and adults in drawing, jewelry, painting, photography, pottery and sculpture. This past year we started a special class for teens and adults with autism and during the summer we conduct a high energy creative art camp for children.


What ages are the programs open to?

We offer classes from age 5 and up


Do you have any plans for expansion of the programs offered?

Starting in the fall we will be increasing the number of beginning art classes such as “drawing for the absolute beginner” and most importantly we will be expanding our evening and weekend offerings to serve people who work during the day.  I want to focus on our strengths and enrich our current offerings.

When do classes start and how does someone find information about the art school?


Summer adult classes start May 27;

Summer art camp for kids start June 9



Tell us a little bit about your faculty.

Artists are generous and want to share and teachers are naturally generous, so the combination of artist/ teacher is the best.  Although I have been here only a few weeks I feel at home, working with faculty and sharing ideas to enrich the Art School. It is a great pleasure each day.


What makes the Boca Museum Art School special?

The faculty makes the art school special.  Each instructor is an accomplished artist who works with the beginner student as well as pushes the experienced student to realize their full potential.  Because there is limited enrollment in classes, teachers can provide individual guidance.  A number of people who started as beginners just a few years ago have developed and are now exhibiting artists or members of the Artists’ Guild.  The art studios become a second home to many students. They are at the school once or twice a week every week of the year.


What do you do for fun?

In New York I would visit a museum or gallery at least once a week.  Now, in Florida, there is wealth of artists, exhibits, galleries and museums to discover.  I have been riding my bicycle to work and plan to upgrade my bike so I can do longer rides.

What type of art do you create?

I am a painter.  My most recent work has been small, intimate sized abstract oil paintings.  For many years I practiced and taught traditional fresco painting which is the technique of painting with pigments on freshly prepared plaster as in the Renaissance murals of Giotto, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Is there anything else that you’d like to tell us?

I have not been to the ocean yet.

Here’s contact information for The Art School:

801 W. Palmetto Road, Boca Raton FL 33486

Telephone 561-392-2503

Visit for information about upcoming art classes.