How can we empower youth and encourage creatives to stay in Baton Rouge? The Walls Project has a few ideas

The Walls Project has a vision for the future of Baton Rouge. The group sees a city where artists can have sustainable careers, the youth have access to important resources and no neighborhood is left behind.

For some, this may sound like a fantasy. But this local nonprofit is determined to make it a reality, one intentional mural at a time.

Most residents know The Walls Project from its beginnings back in 2012, painting colorful murals on drab walls around downtown.

Now, the murals will have a different message. This fall, the Walls Project begins its new campaign #ONEROUGE. In addition to a Kickstarter to raise funds for the organization, the campaign includes the Nine Drivers of Poverty project: murals addressing primary causes of poverty, as described in reports from the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty in Dallas and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Those drivers range from lack of affordable transportation to a high number of households with children living in poverty. During a nine-month mural campaign that began in October, The Walls Project is unveiling a new mural each month around town addressing one of those causes. The first one, located downtown, is inspired by the ninth driver of poverty and highlights equal pay issues.

“We have this big interactive installation that we’re going to be putting together, as well as the mural,” says Helena Williams, director of marketing and communications. “We’re not leaning toward any policy or any political stance—we want dialogue to start. We want it to create change. It’s what sparks within you when you see it. It really puts the power in other people’s hands.”

Since 2012, The Walls Project has generated $2 million in revenue to local artists and created 120 murals and art installations across the city. It doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. The Futures Fund, its STEAM education and workforce development program, trains middle and high schoolers. Its newest program, Baton Roots, educates the public on how to grow their own food at an urban farm

“Now is the time to bring the city whole,” founder Casey Phillips says. “Just as much as we support the resurgence of downtown and Mid City, we’ve been equally focused on the reactivation of north Baton Rouge. Development can’t be in piecemeal. It has to be holistic. So the future of our organization has been and will continue to be a part of a larger solution to reactivate north Baton Rouge.”

The Walls Project has more big plans for 2020. In addition to hosting its seventh MLK Fest, the organization will launch its first youth conference, JOLTcon, at the Main Library on Goodwood in March. With the help of event company Red Cake Events, the conference will be organized, planned and led by The Futures Fund students.

“We want to empower the next generation,” Williams says. “Let’s not put age as a barrier for change. We are training for a future of more conferences and more youth-led events.”

By educating and empowering the youth, beautifying the city and addressing major issues, The Walls Project hopes to create a better Baton Rouge. But they can’t do it alone.

“We want to see the city rise. But we are not the magic bullet solution,” Phillips says. “We are part of a much greater solution.” thewallsproject.org

The Walls Project’s new series will address:

1. The sharp decline in median income
2. Access to affordable transportation
3. Lack of homeownership and escalating rental costs
4. A growing number of neighborhoods in poverty
5. High number of households with children living in poverty
6. Lack of educational attainment
7. Limited English proficiency and cultural differences
8. High teen birth rates
9. High poverty rates for single mothers


• 20 murals
• 750 Futures Fund students
• 50 reactivated buildings or lots
• 5 miles of reactivated blight remediation
• 2 acres of freshly grown food
• Dispose 100 tons of trash in the process

This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.

Click here to see more stories from our Imagining the Future cover story.