The Futures Fund launching to help Baton Rouge students build careers in the arts

    Amidst a national push for increased programs in STEM education, The Walls Project is launching a new program for North Baton Rouge and Mid City high school students this summer with a focus on building careers in the arts.

    The pilot version of the workforce program called The Futures Fund began in May with open enrollment each Saturday, ushering some 200 teenagers thus far into training programs and exposing them to different types of arts careers and the job opportunities stemming from them.

    “This is part of a counterbalance plan, to work together on revitalizing the urban landscape and then starting with the youth and giving them 21st century job skills,” says Casey Phillips, executive director of the The Walls Project, which is a public arts initiative by The Force Agency. “People shouldn’t underestimate our community. In the low-income areas, there’s just as much talent there as in the gated communities and private schools.”

    About $100,000 and two years of planning went into getting the program going, Phillips says. The Force Agency partnered with Southern University and the Southern University Lab School and obtained funding from the City of Baton Rouge Office of Community Development.

    “The City of Baton Rouge was one of the earliest champions of this,” Phillips says. “It made us feel good that our city got behind it and we didn’t have to immediately go to outside funding. When we first started The Walls Project it was only the private sector that supported the project.”

    The Future Fund’s pilot program will run through October, Phillips says. The participating students arrive at a location off Scenic Highway to eat breakfast before attending training classes. They take a break for lunch, and then a guest speaker talks to students about the arts and careers in the afternoon.

    “This is a youth workforce development program that’s centered on the creative industries all around us; everything from coding to web development and digital arts to photography,” Phillips says. “We’re concentrating on 14- to 18-year-olds from low-income backgrounds.”

    The Charles Lamar Family Foundation, the Major family and the Pisto family also donated to the The Future Fund, Phillips says. He adds that The Force Agency is getting ready to launch a large fundraising campaign to garner more support for The Futures Fund.

    —Deanna Narveson

    Editor’s note: This story has been updated since original publication to clarify details about The Futures Fund

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