Leslie G. Kelen, CDEA Executive and Artistic Director, was born in Budapest, Hungary, and emigrated to the United States in 1959 with his parents, grandmother, and younger sister. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Lehman College in the Bronx, a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, and he completed course-work for a Doctorate in Creative Writing at the University of Utah.
In the late 1970s, Kelen began working on documentary-style oral history projects. In 1983, he and Sandra T. Fuller (with guidance from Bob Doherty, director of the SLC Art Center, now UMOCA) co-founded the Oral History Institute, which became the Center for Documentary Arts in 2000 and the Center for Documentary Expression and Art in 2011. He curated most CDEA exhibits; developed CDEA’s statewide education-outreach program titled: “Exhibits That Teach: Artists/Scholars-in-Residence”; and is author, co-author, or editor of five books; plus two chapbooks of poetry.
His published works include: The Other Utahns: A Photographic Portfolio (1988); Missing Stories: An Oral History of Ethnic and Minority Groups in Utah (1995); Sacred Images: A Vision of Native American Rock Art (1996); Reawakened Beauty: The Past, Present, and Future of the Jordan River (2011); and This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement (2011.)
In July 2003, he and his wife received the National Education Association’s Applegate-Dorros “Peace and International Understanding Award” for their work on Faces and Voices of Refugee Youth (2002), an exhibit, catalogue, and 30-minute film co-produced with KUED, Utah’s PBS affiliate.