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Doris Leeper

Sculptor, Painter

1929 - 2000
Inducted in 1999


An acclaimed visual artist and active environmentalist, Doris Marie Leeper, was an internationally recognized sculptor and painter who executed a number of large-scale commissions.  Her work has been acquired for over 100 public collections held by corporations, museums and individuals throughout the country. 

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Leeper graduated from Duke University with a degree in art history in 1951.  She worked as a commercial artist until 1961 when she began a full-time career as a sculptor and painter.  She quickly established herself in the art world, having moved to Florida in 1958 and settling in the barrier-island community of Eldora, south of New Smyrna.  It was there that she also became a vocal and life-long champion for the preservation of Florida's natural heritage, promoting public education about land use management and conservation.

By the early 1970s, Leeper had become a well-known figure in Florida's nascent environmentalism movement.  Her home in Eldora became the focal point for a campaign to preserve 24 miles of ocean-front property from development.  She is credited with being instrumental in the creation of the 58,000-acre Canaveral National Seashore, created in 1975 by an act of Congress.  The preserve remains the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida's east coast.

In the art world, Leeper is best known for her passion for both art education and for supporting young artists.  She saw a dream come true in 1982 with the opening of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, an artists' colony on the outskirts of New Smyrna Beach.  Leeper is credited as being the prime mover behind the establishment of the center and served on its first board of directors.  Today, the center is known as one of the premier artists' communities in the world. 

Leeper's advocacy for additional support for talented artists led to the creation of the Alliance of Artists' Communities, a consortium of artists' colonies and residency programs across the country.  The organization is dedicated to improving support for deserving artists throughout the world. 

After her death in April 2000, the Doris Leeper Endowment and the Doris Leeper Award for Excellence in Art Education were established in her memory. 

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