The days following Art Leslie’s death were strange to say the least. Kids — half reeling from the loss, half being their energetic resilient selves — filled the halls, occasionally popping into a quiet office to talk to a writer about their experiences with Mr. Art, the founder of the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center. There were tears, laughs and tiny bodies sitting in oversized chairs with their ankles crossed and hands folded, no doubt manners Art taught them to practice when talking to adults.
One by one, they told stories about how he impacted their lives. Adults handled it much the same way, often leaning against the doorframe as the weight of grief and putting on happy faces for children was just too much.
Writers at Shattered Media, along with friends and coworkers of Art, wrote a book detailing moments from his life. One by one, the people closest to him told their favorite memories to be memorialized within the pages of “The Work of Art.”
The goal, even from the beginning of the project, was to give one of the books to each child at the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center.
Jackie Albrecht, board member and fundraising chair, said the campaign hoped to raise $25,000 through book sales and individual donations.
To raise the money needed to give books to the children, the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center and Shattered Media started a buy-one-give-one campaign on Causevox.
“The motto of the learning center is ‘making an impact for life,’ and we believe that there is no greater investment than the life of a child,” Jackie said. “Art Leslie knew this first hand because he was raised in the Butler Terrace projects here in Huntsville, and as a result of him seeing that first hand, he wanted to pour back into children the love of God and that they were important, and he wanted to break that cycle of poverty and government dependency.”
There were 98 children from 22 different schools who attended the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center last year. The goal is to give all of those children books, in addition to the kindergartners through eighth graders who were also impacted by Art’s life in other years at the learning center.
“ ‘The Work of Art’ not only secures Art’s legacy, but it also provides a reminder to all of the children who have gone before, and the children who are now going to the learning center, of all the things Art did to have the learning center successful,” Jackie said.
Organizers mailed advanced copies of the books to Art’s family, including his four adult daughters.
“I could not put the book down,” Rose, one of Art’s daughters, told Jackie.
The money raised will go toward the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center’s operating expenses — food, cleaning supplies for the coronavirus, and other expenses that pop up throughout the year. The ministry is volunteer and donation-driven.
The deadline for ordering books is August 26, and curbside pickup will be available. If someone wants to have the book shipped, that’s available as well. You can see the donation levels or purchase a book here. At the time of publication, the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center has raised over $6,000.