Former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney and Youth Services Programming Coordinator Leslie Marley was your typical suburban mom with deep roots in the northern suburbs of Evanston, Skokie and Morton Grove.
She was not someone who was into risk and was not a big driver preferring public transportation.
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Then 8 years ago she received a call that her brother had been found murdered in his home in Waukegan.
Her family traveled to the courthouse located in that town for two years while the defendants were awaiting trial and were eventually sentenced.
Fast forward 7 years later and Leslie, a new artist who just began creating art in 2009, was approached to submit art for consideration by the Dandelion Gallery in Waukegan only blocks from the courthouse where her family went through so much.
The gallery had already been open for more than a year and it was part of a movement to bring improvement to the dilapidated downtown Waukegan area once a grand harbor town with mansions off to the north and a beautiful theater called the Genesee. It was now run down and almost abandoned.
The community sponsored an art walk and it had brought people and money to town and the galleries were full of up-and-coming artists.
Leslie decided to donate a year of her spare time to the project and has been in monthly shows since October 2012 and September 2013 will be her final month there.
To commemorate her final months at the gallery, she will be August's Featured Artist.
She is calling her show, which will open on Aug. 17 from 5-9 p.m., "Bat Mitzvah" because she felt she had grown so much through all of the stressful times she had been through and had finally reached adulthood at aged 50.
Going to the gallery significantly expanded her horizons because she had to finally drive to lots of new places getting artwork previously only stored in a basement and never displayed before to framers and driving to the town by the lake, so sad yet so interesting and hauntingly beautiful as well.
"My art show is a celebration for me of reaching a new state of independence and I am very glad I was able to honor my brother's memory and learn a lot about myself here in Waukegan as an artist and as a person." says Ms. Marley.
For more information on the artist, see www.dandeliongallery.org or www.dandeliongallery.org/leslie-marley-artist-bio.html.