Leslie Bellavance was born in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. As an undergraduate art student she traveled abroad in Europe and lived in Rome, Italy. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree Summa Cum Laude from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Chicago.
Bellavance has exhibited her artwork in the United States, Europe and Asia. She has received numerous grants and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship. She was awarded a residency for her book, analemmic, which was published by Nexus Press in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bellavance has written and lectured extensively on contemporary art. From 1981 until 2005 she served on the faculty of the Department of Visual Art in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also served as head of the Photography Program, director of Graduate Studies in Art, and interim associate dean. From 2005 until 2010 she served as professor of art and the director of the School of Art and Art History at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. From 2010 until 2015 she served as professor of art and dean of the School of Art and Design in the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. From 2015 until 2019 Bellavance served as the thirteenth president of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD).

She currently lives in Ada, Michigan.