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Thomas A. Leek

Thomas A. Leek was born in 1932. Leek is a watercolorist who was central to the development of the art program at Southern Utah State College, he now follows his own personal artistic pursuits on a full-time basis.

Don Olsen, one of the foremost nonrepresentational painters in Utah, was Leek's instructor at Jordan High School. Leek graduated from the University of Chicago in 1960. He also earned a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960, and an MFA from Brigham Young University in 1961.

In the 1980s he became nationally famous for his watercolors of the southern Utah desert. Eternal Forces (1990) is part of the Springville Museum of Art's permanent collection. Elements aux Mauves (1984) is one of his nonrepresentational works.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah and material supplied by the artist.

Thomas Arvel Leek (1932-), of Salt Lake City, is an excellent artist and teacher who was central to the Southern Utah State College (SUU) art program from 1961 to 1984. A former chair there, Leek was a Utah Watercolor Society silver-medal winner in the late 1970s with an abstraction entitled Colorbuds. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, he did his graduate studies at the University of Los Angeles and the University of Iowa, and earned a master's degree at Brigham Young University (1961). Since that time, Tom Leek has been a major figure in Utah's artistic community. He founded the Braithewaite Gallery in Cedar City, became an adjunct professor and the gallery director at Weber State College (W.S.U.), and continued to exhibit interesting studies in exhibitions throughout the region. His work has been handled by the Phillips Gallery in Salt Lake City, among others. According to Ann Poore in her recent catalog entitled The Reality of Abstraction:Painting in Utah 1946-1996: “Whether working in a representational or nonrepresentational direction, Leek says his watercolors are 'ideological summaries of life experiences.'“ Today, this artist pursues a full-time practice in Salt Lake City.

He has won the following awards and scholastic honors: 1957-60 Three Scholarships, The Art Institute of Chicago; 1960-61 Graduate Fellowship, Brigham Young University; 1968-69 Graduate Scholarship, University of Iowa.


  • 1956-60- Liberal Arts Study, University of Chicago
  • 1960-B.F.A. Degree, The Art Institute of Chicago
  • 1961-M.A. Degree, Brigham Young University
  • 1964-Graduate study in Art History and Painting, U.C.L.A.
  • 1968-69-Graduate study in Art History, University of Iowa


  • Full Professor, Southern Utah State College, 1978
  • Chairman, Department of Art, S.U.S.C., 1961-1978
  • Director, Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, S.U.S.C., 1976- present


  • Utah State University, Logan, UT. 1962
  • Eldred Cultural Center, Provo, UT. 1967
  • Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. 1967
  • Dixie College, St. George, UT. 1974
  • S.U.S.C., Cedar City,UT. 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1974
  • Phillips Gallery, S.L.C., UT. 1976
  • Salt Lake City Art Center, S.L.C., UT. 1977
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Cedar City, UT. 1978
  • Southwest Utah Arts Council, Cedar City, UT. 1978
  • Myra Powell Gallery, Ogden, UT. 1981
  • College of Eastern Utah, Price, UT. 1982
  • Phillips Gallery, S.L.C., UT. 1982


  • Purchase Award, B.Y.U., 1961
  • American Artists Professional League Award 1964, 1966, 1967
  • Purchase Award, U.S.U., 1971
  • Purchase Award, Utah Arts Council, 1975
  • Purchase Award, Annual Watercolor West, U.S.U. 1974-1981
  • Best of Show, 4th Annual Utah Watercolor Society Exhibition, 1978
  • Purchase Award, Ogden City Permanent Collection, 1981

Artist Statement

“In commenting on my painting of the last 15 years, I speak as a former figure painter who relocated in Southern Utah and was immediately caught up and overwhelmed by the dynamism of the rugged Southwest landscape. I continue to find generative inspiration in the visual forces of my environment--the arid subtle colors, the exciting textural variations, the soaring monumental forms, the dynamic thrusts and counterthrusts, the striking contrasts between sunbleached lights and cavernous shadows and the magnanimous spatial relationships. All of these, for me, provide the abstract essentials for my painting. A dramatic shift from opaque painting media has facilitated a more sensitive interpretation of my surroundings“

Biography courtesy of artist.

Newspaper Articles

"'Small Packages' Contain Lots of Beauty for Art Lovers." The Deseret News, December 6, 1992.

"3's a Charm from 1-Artist Shows at Galleries in and Around S.L." The Deseret News, April 14, 1991.

"A Reverent/Irreverent Approaches to Art." The Deseret News, June 24, 1990.

"Art Canvass." The Deseret News, October 16, 1994.

"Art Canvass." The Deseret News, December 2, 1990.

"Coming Up: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 1996.

"Coming Up: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, January 8, 1995.

"Curator's Works on Exhibition in CSU Lounge." The Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 1965.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, January 8, 1995.

"S.L. Galleries Safe From Wrecking Ball Exhibits Still Sparkle Despite Dust From Block 57 Demolition." The Deseret News, April 1, 1990.

"U.S.U. Shows Art by CSU Savant." The Salt Lake Tribune, May 5, 1965.

"Utah Symphony launches new season in High Style." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 27, 1998.


Leek, Thomas. "A Circumspection of Ten Formulators of Early Utah Art History." M. A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1961.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

 Last Modified 6/20/18