Uh, who’s Art Leslie?”
One of our coworkers came into our meeting, distressed and visibly shaken, and announced that Art Leslie had passed away. And because our team is composed of remote workers from around the country, there was that awkward moment when the non-Huntsvillians looked around and said, “Uh, who’s Art Leslie?”
It didn’t take long for us to get to know him — and come to love him.
Getting To Know Art
After our team members described Art’s legacy as they saw him live and love in Huntsville, Alabama, we swiftly and unanimously decided to honor Art by telling the stories of those he impacted most — the kids at the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center.
One by one, kids stepped into a quiet office to talk to a writer about Mr. Art, the founder of the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center. Through tears and laughs, the kids were respectful and well-behaved, with their ankles crossed and hands folded, undoubtedly manners they learned from Mr. Art.
The adults carrying on the work at the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center shared their stories too, often letting the weight of grief and ministering while grieving rest on a doorframe or chair as they spoke.
Writers at Shattered Media, along with friends and coworkers of Art, detailed moments from his life to fill the pages of “The Work of Art”, a tribute to Art and his legacy.
In the beginning, Shattered writers knew about Art Leslie and his legacy to the children, but it wasn’t until they got deep in the trenches, hearing story after story of the Christian lessons he taught these kids — and sometimes their parents — that they realized just how monumental his contribution to inner city Huntsville had been.
“He made the Bible come alive,” Joseph Porras, 11, said. “He just had this way of … he acted out and explained to us what happened and helped me to especially learn because I was never good at imagining things.”
Luis Lopez, 10, added, “Mr. Art was a good man. He always followed God and read the Bible.”
All the way up to his death, Art taught kids to follow God. His last lesson, about Joshua, boiled down to this kid-friendly takeaway: Step up and do the right thing, especially when the pressure is on and no one is watching.
While those Bible lessons were so important, there was more for Art to teach them. They did homework. They learned table manners. Little boys held the doors open for little girls, and the girls learned to act like ladies. It was somewhere between boarding school, vacation Bible school and cotillion, and it changed the lives of countless children.
The goal from the beginning of the project was to give a book to each child at the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center.
Jackie Albrecht, board member and fundraising chair, said the campaign organizers 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 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.
Just as quickly as we learned exactly who Art Leslie was, we fell in love with him and his work. And we here at Shattered feel privileged to be a part of “The Work of Art” to honor and tell the Art Leslie story.