Skip to the content

“Stay Alive, Make Art”: The Legacy of Amos Lemon Burkhart

by Mady Johnston, BCTV

“Stay Alive, Make Art”: The Legacy of Amos Lemon Burkhart

There is a common stigma in artistic circles, that art must come from a place of struggle and suffering. That only great tragedy breeds great artistry. Think Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, or the “27 Club.” This mindset makes art seem exclusionary, as if its purpose is not to be cathartic or not meant to be accessible to all.

The Amos Lemon Burkhart Foundation seeks to break this stigma by creating “a new conversation about creativity, mental illness, and addiction in order to help young artists stay alive and make art.” It does this in part by sustaining and promoting the legacy of its namesake, Amos “Lemon” Burkhart.


Lemon was born in 1998 in Mohnton, Berks County, to parents Ann Lemon and Dane Burkhart. From a young age, he was known for his intelligence, wit, and immense talent and passion for art.

“He could translate the 3-dimensional world onto the 2-dimensional page,” said his mother, Ann Lemon. “He took a figure drawing class [in high school], and the figure drawings that he made looked like a mature artist’s who’d been doing it for years… whatever he could see, he could draw.” -AL

Lemon grew to be fascinated with animation and video game design. He taught himself animation, video editing, music composition, and various illustration methods. At 17, he submitted a portfolio and a self-made animation video, titled “together“, to the California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) Summer program, California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA).

together: (tw// flashing, strobing lights and imagery may cause issues for those with photosensitive epilepsy)

It was during this program that he found a new spark of confidence and inspiration for his art and began experimenting with different media.

According to Lemon’s father, Dane Burkhart, “Everything about his art changed… Art schools were fighting over him.” Eventually, he would be accepted to Montserrat College of Art, an independent art school based in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Expressive Torso 2016 18” x 24” Oil Pastel on paper Done from observation at CSSSA

However, it was also around this time that Lemon’s inner struggles, such as battles with depression, social anxiety, emotional lability, and gender dysmorphia, as well as a rapidly evolving drug addiction, began to spiral.

In and out of treatment from 2017 to 2018, it was during this time that he created many of his prominent works, such as “Pain-o-sama”, “You miss 90% of the shots you don’t take”, and “Maneater”. Pieces that exhibit the complexities, vibrancy, and intensity he saw in both his inner and outer worlds, and that showcase his wit and sense of humor, such as subtle hints at his name, “Lemon”, or works like “Reaching out, falling short”, which contains lyrics from the opening verse of Stick To The Status Quo from Disney Channel’s High School Musical.

Lemon found successful treatment at Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville and Caron Renaissance in Florida, after which he left for Beverly, Mass. to start his education at Montserrat. However, he would soon relapse. Lemon passed away due to mysterious circumstance, fueled by Xanax and alcohol abuse, on May 7, 2018, at 19 years old.



After his death, Lemon’s parents began to collect pieces of his art to display at his memorial service. They searched his childhood home, his Beverly apartment, spoke to former teachers, friends, and search suitcases and old boxes full of his art. In the end, they ended up finding over 500 different pieces of artwork, from journal sketches to canvas paintings to large-scale drawings. Even entire elements of his apartment were covered in art.

“Pain-o-sama” 2017 36” x 36” Acrylic, pen, ink on canvas

“Some mothers and fathers, all they have left of their kid, if they died of a drug overdose, is their smelly basketball shoes,” said Ann. “We have about 500 pieces of art.”

“Every time someone in the art world, who knows art, would look at [his work], they’d just be overtaken by it,” said Dane. With many affirmations of the high quality of Lemon’s talent, his parents were inspired to start showing the world what their son had to offer.

In May 2019, a year after Lemon’s passing, his parents held his first solo exhibit at Montserrat, accomplishing one of his dreams posthumously. The show, titled, “You Miss 90% of The Shots You Don’t Take”, further inspired them to pursue a solution to what they would do with all of their son’s art.

They discovered the Institute for Artists Estates, based in Germany, and their book, The Artist’s Estate: A Handbook for Artists, Executors and Heirs. Ann attended their conference in Los Angeles. There, she connected with a consultant to help them establish what would be called The Amos Lemon Burkhart Foundation.

Most artist foundations are meant to forward the position of the artists and advocate on issues important to them during their lives. Lemon cared about other young artists.

Along with sharing and showcasing Lemon’s art, the Foundation:

“The possibility of this body of art helping addicts, if we can put together something before we go, that will perpetuate itself and live on,” said Dane. “And if this art has the ability to do that… we’ll do everything we can to make it work.”



“Listen up and I’ll tell you a story of an artist growing old”: Learn about artists who lived long and prosperous lives making art

You Miss 90% of The Shots You Don’t Take”: The Art of Amos Lemon Burkhart is currently on display in the Rolf and Renate Schmidt Gallery at The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, now through July 30, 2021. The name comes from that of one of Lemon’s most detailed works on display.

It could be tempting for the average consumer to look at Lemon’s art, know his story, and be focused on the tragic backstory. However, “We want people to leave, not with this tragic feeling of ‘Oh, what a loss,’” said Ann. “When people look at [his art] it’s very emotional, and what we want is for people to have something to do with that emotion… Some ability to think about things, process things, have it mean something more than, ‘oh, how sad,’ and then leave at that note.”

That’s why the exhibit is paired with Against the Wind: A New Conversation about Creativity, Addiction and Mental Health. It is an interactive, hands-on exhibit for viewers to creatively express any emotions they may be feeling, as well as gain education on mental health issues, stigmas around drug addiction, and artists who lived long, happy and successful lives while making art.

According to Ann, What we wanted in this room was things that people could participate in, that they weren’t just looking at but that they were actually doing… Whether or not the art ever amounts to anything, it goes together with this and something [good] could still happen.

Most of the interactive elements are invented and hand-crafted by Ann Lemon and Dane Burkhart, such as Chromatic Data (a wall where visitors can decorate and post tiles detailing their everyday “strengths” and “stressors”) and the Feeling Wheel (for people to identify and illustrate a present feeling). The exhibit has already seen great success during group tours with Caron patients, Olivet Boys & Girls Club, and RACC students.

The Foundation has plans in place to tour the exhibit in various cities across the U.S., especially those with communities suffering from addiction. “It’s gonna help everybody along the way, not just artists,” said Dane. “If one kid comes through here and leaves with one thing that helps them later in life… then it was a success!”


“You Miss 90% of The Shots You Don’t Take” is open to the public through July 30th, 9 am – 9 pm, 7 days a week.

“Against the Wind” is open to the public through July 23rd, Saturdays 1-5 pm & Tuesdays 4-8 pm.

To learn more about Lemon, his art, the Amos Lemon Burkhart Foundation, and other events, visit

For local and national mental health resources, go to For resources regarding substance abuse and recovery, go to