The late Leon Amyx, Hartnell College’s first art instructor and prominent painter of the Salinas Valley, painted into his ninth decade and gained the love and admiration of countless Central Coast residents. Although legally blind in his later years, Amyx continued to paint large abstract works in bright colors.
Amyx died in August 1995 at the age of 87. He was born in 1908 in Exeter, California, and grew up in Visalia. During his 36 years at Hartnell, Amyx taught not only painting and drawing but also design, ceramics, art history, and what was then called commercial art. He was the only art teacher at the College until the 1950’s when a second teacher was hired. A third instructor joined the staff six years later.
Amyx, who studied with the late Millard Sheets, worked toward his Master of Fine Arts degree at Clairemont College, completing a series of watercolors depicting life in the rural and urban Salinas Valley, an American-scene type of painting that brought fame to Thomas Hart Benton, John Stewart Curry and Grant Wood in the 20’s and 30’s.
Amyx inspired thousands of students. He always had time for them, giving of himself that they might learn and succeed. Though an avid painter, Amyx’s first love was teaching. He spent countless hours of his own time taking students on painting trips and to museums and galleries so they could view first-hand the work of other artists.
Amyx was admired and loved by countless people around the central coast, not only for his ability to teach, but because of his kindness, patience, and generosity. Following his death at the family’s retirement home in Auburn, family and friends contributed more than $12,000 to create a scholarship endowment in memory of Amyx.
Two Leon Amyx Memorial Scholarships of $250 each were awarded this spring to continuing Hartnell College students studying the visual arts. To contribute to the Leon Amyx Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact the Hartnell College Foundation at (831) 755-6810.