Sarah Leen
Sarah Leen

National Geographic Director of Photography to Deliver Keynote at Visual Art & Design Showcase

University of Missouri alumna Sarah Leen, whose work as a photographer has taken her around the world, will deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Undergraduate Visual Art & Design Showcase, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, 2017. Leen is the director of photography at National Geographic, where her assignments have sent her to destinations such as the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, Lake Baikal in Siberia and the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl.

Leen will deliver her keynote address on the final day of the Undergraduate Visual Art & Design Showcase, at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, in Jesse Auditorium. In its second year, the Undergraduate Visual Art & Design Showcase is a venue for undergraduate students to display and discuss their scholarly work in an exhibition setting. Student work will feature a variety of artistic expression and applied design, including works of photojournalism, graphic design, architectural drawing, theatre lighting design, painting, textile and apparel design, digital storytelling, floral design and more.

“After the great success of the inaugural Visual Art & Design Showcase, we are eagerly anticipating this year’s event,” said Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies. “The showcase is a terrific celebration of the work that is being done in the areas of art and design at Mizzou. The opportunity for our students to share their work, along with the chance for the community to learn about what is taking place within these areas at MU, makes this a popular event for our campus and the community.”

While an MU student in 1979, Leen was awarded a National Geographic Society internship after winning the College Photographer of the Year competition. That summer she was assigned her first magazine story, which was published in the July 1980 issue.

Following the internship, Leen worked in the newspaper business with stops at the Topeka (Kansas) Capital Journal, The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1988, she began a freelance career, providing photos for a variety of magazines, including National Geographic. In 2005, Leen stepped into a senior photo editor role at National Geographic and was named director of photography for the magazine in May 2013. She is the first female director of photography for National Geographic. In addition to her work with the magazine, Leen has worked on a number of books with National Geographic.

Leen graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree from Mizzou in 1974, then took graduate classes through the MU School of Journalism. She has won numerous awards for her photography at the Pictures of the Year (POYi). In 2002, she won second place in the science and technology category of the World Press Photo Contest and in 2007 and 2008 she won first place in the Magazine Picture Editing Portfolio from POYi. Leen was inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame in 2014.

“We are beyond excited to have someone who has had the type of experiences and successes that Sarah has had serve as our keynote speaker,” said Linda Blockus, director of undergraduate research and chair of the Visual Art & Design Showcase planning committee. “Add in the fact that she is Mizzou alumna, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her coming back to campus to speak at the Visual Art & Design Showcase.”

A four-member guest jury will award $10,000 in professional development funds to the most outstanding work. The winners of those funds will be announced following Leen’s keynote address.

The jury members will participate in a panel discussion at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Jesse Auditorium. Those jury members are architect Mian Ye, fashion designer and MU alumna Jennifer Ouellette, and Kansas City Art Institute Crossroads Gallery director Michael Schonhoff.

The opening day of the showcase will include a screening of student works in the areas of digital storytelling and documentary. The screening will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30 in Jesse Auditorium and will be followed by a panel discussion with four area film experts: Barbie Banks of the Citizen Jane Film Festival; Chelsea Myers, a local documentary filmmaker; Danielle Langdon, an assistant professor of art at Columbia College; and Andrea Sporcic of the Missouri Film Office.

Schedule of Events

Monday, January 30

4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Opening Reception (Jesse Hall Rotunda)
5:30 - 6:15 p.m.
Screening of student digital storytelling & documentary work. (Jesse Auditorium)
6:15 - 7 p.m.
Panel Discussion – “Video as a Visual Medium” (Jesse Auditorium)

Wednesday, February 1

5 - 6 p.m.
Panel Discussion – “Professional Journeys in Art & Design” (Jesse Auditorium)
6 - 7 p.m.
Artist/Designer Reception (Jesse Hall Rotunda)

Friday, February 3

4 - 4:45 p.m.
Keynote Address– Sarah Leen (Jesse Auditorium)
4:45 - 5 p.m.
Awards Ceremony (Jesse Auditorium)
5 - 6 p.m.
Awards Reception (Jesse Hall Rotunda)

The students’ work will be on display in Jesse Hall throughout the week of the showcase.