Doris Marie Leeper

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Doris "Doc" Leeper
Born(1929-04-04)April 4, 1929
Charlotte, North Carolina
DiedApril 11, 2000(2000-04-11) (aged 71)
EducationDuke University
Known forPainting, Sculpture
AwardsFlorida Artists Hall of Fame (1999)

Doris "Doc" Leeper (1929–2000) was an American sculptor and painter from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. She was instrumental in the creation of the Canaveral National Seashore in 1975. She founded the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 1982. She was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1999.

Leeper was born on April 4, 1929, in Charlotte, North Carolina.[1] She attended Duke University, originally intending to become a brain surgeon – the origin of her nickname "Doc."[2] She eventually graduated in 1951 with a degree in art history.[1]

In 1958, while working in the field of commercial art, she moved to the small community of Eldora, Florida, situated on a barrier island between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, Florida.[1] As a result of her presence there, Leeper became increasingly interested in environmental preservation.[2] By 1961, she had become a full-time artist, specializing in painting and sculpture. Her work is in over 100 collections in the U.S. and abroad.[1]

By the early 1970s, Leeper was a well-known figure in the Florida environmental movement, and was instrumental in the 1975 creation of the Canaveral National Seashore (CANA), which encompassed the island on which Eldora was located.[1]

Leeper conceived of the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 1977, envisioning it as a Florida artist-in-residence program in which artists of all disciplines could work with current prominent artists in a supportive and creative environment. Leeper saw the potential for an artist's residency as a place for ideas to be created, shared, and come into fruition. She soon persuaded friends and community members to join in her vision. In 1979, she convinced the Rockefeller Foundation to provide a challenge grant that soon was matched. This $25,000 in seed money was the unofficial inception of the ACA. When a prime piece of property became available on the shores of Turnbull Bay, a tidal estuary west of New Smyrna Beach, Leeper raised the $50,000 necessary to buy the ten-acre plot. Three years later, five main buildings were completed. Over the years, five more buildings were constructed and an additional 59 acres were purchased as preserve land.

The ACA officially opened in 1982[1] for the first residency with author James Dickey, sculptor Duane Hanson, and composer David Del Tredici. Since then, over 155 interdisciplinary residencies have taken place, featuring over 430 Master Artists and over 3,500 Associate Artists from around the world.

Leeper was awarded honorary doctorates from Duke and from Stetson University.[2] She was named Florida ambassador of the arts,[2] and inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame in 1999.[1]

She died April 11, 2000 as the last resident of Eldora. After her death, the management of the town was officially turned over to the federal government, as the town is located more than two miles within the borders of the Canaveral National Seashore. The town claims no permanent residents and visitation is limited and subject to park hours. Only two of its original buildings remain.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Doris Leeper". Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Moore, Roger. "Doris Leeper Was A 'Force For The Arts': The Atlantic Center For The Arts Was Among The Volusia Woman's Many Creations," Orlando Sentinel (April 12, 2000).

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