Frie Leysen is recognized as one of the most experienced figures on the international theatre scene. At a time when the long-standing conflict between Flemish and Walloon communities in Belgium was escalating, she successfully used the arts as an agent of integration and understanding. From 1980 to 1991 she established the international arts center deSingel in Antwerp.
In 1992 she founded the multidisciplinary Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, which she continued to run successfully for over ten years and developed into one of the most influential festivals in Europe.
Afterwards, Frie Leysen concentrated mainly on the Arab region, where she curated Meeting Points 5, an international festival in nine Arab cities from Damascus to Rabat. In 2010 she was artistic director of the festival Theater der Welt in Mülheim and Essen.
In 2012, she was appointed Artistic Director of Foreign Affairs, the newly-established international festival for theatre and the performing arts at Berliner Festspiele. In 2013-14, she was the theatre director of the Wiener Festwochen.