BS: Painting / Sculpture – Kansas State University
MA: Painting – University of Iowa
MFA: Printmaking – University of Iowa
Additional studies at Stanford, Atlanta University and the La Romita School of Art in Terni, Italy
As a youngster Leon Hicks seemed to have the spirit to achieve great heights with his entrepreneurial mind, as life was difficult growing up in the 30’s and 40’s in Gainesville, Florida. He picked beans for local farmers and worked as a house painter and sign painter for businesses in the area. From shoeshine stands; to being the school newspaper editor; to a three year stint serving his country in the Army; his father passed down strong work ethic and a calm manner for which Leon approaches life itself.
A scholar of African-American art and celebrated printmaker for over forty years, Leon Hicks was Professor Emeritus at Webster University in St. Louis upon his retirement in 1999. His beginnings as an artist in the 1940’s resulted from a $250 correspondence course aptly promoted in a comic book. Hicks mentions, “I drew the picture that was in the ad, sent it in, and of course, my drawing won.” This was the beginning of many accomplishments and rewards Mr. Hicks was to receive in his academic and professional career. His work as an engraver has brought him international attention, two grants from the National Endowment for Humanities and many accolades for his contribution to the arts, not only as an African-American artist but also a celebrated educator. James Burke, Director of The St. Louis Art Museum and a printmaker himself suggested that “every major museum in the country ought to have to have a Hicks engraving in its collection as the St. Louis Museum does.”
Certainly, numerous institutions, museums and corporations have followed suit to acquire Hicks’ work -- such as The University of Florida, 7UP Company, The Oakland Art Museum, Atlanta University, Southwestern Bell Corporation, Charleston Art Gallery, Tuskegee Institute, Brandywine Graphic Workshop, Albrecht Art Museum and the Library of Congress to name a few. He has presented his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. Some of which include Pacific States Biennial (University of Hawaii), Made by Hand III – Prints & Artists’ Books (Minneapolis College of Art and Design), Brandywine Workshop Collection: Mali, West Africa and fourteen African Nations (Florida A & M University), Impressional Expressions: Black American Graphics (Smithsonian Institution, The Studio Museum in Harlem) and the United States Embassy Art Exhibition (Ankara, Turkey).
In addition, he has received numerous awards, presented workshops, participated in various artist residences and mentioned in a variety of publications throughout his forty year career including NEH Grant (1969,1974), Elizabeth Catlett Mora Award of Excellence (1978), Engraving Workshop (Illinois State University; Normal, IL, Carleton College; Northfield, MN, Jackson State; Jackson, MS, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO), Prints by American Negro Artists (Cultural Exchange Center of Los Angeles), Black Artists on Art (authors Samella Lewis / Ruth Waddy), Art News, and American Artists: A Bio-Bibliographical Directory (editor Theresa Dickason / Holm Cedar) to name a few.