20 Years of Young Leaders for a Better Baton Rouge
1993 Founded in August 1993 to inspire young professionals to become involved with philanthropic organizations and activities, Forum 35 is a community organization of engaged young men and women dedicated to improving and shaping Baton Rouge. Forum 35 was designed to provide leadership development opportunities for the next generation of Baton Rouge leaders. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, under the leadership of John Davies, and John Barton, Sr., provided $5,000 each to start the organization.
Forum 35's first major project raised over $350,000.00 to
install lights on the Mississippi River Bridge, which serves as a gateway into
the Capital City.
Other Partnerships included St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy, CAN DO! (Community Action in Neighborhoods Developing Opportunities), Baton Rouge Green, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance, and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge – to name but a few.
1998 Gus Young Park Cleanup- In 1998, Forum 35 organized a three-hundred person volunteer
cleanup and beautification of the inner city Gus Young Park. In conjunction
with AmeriCorps, more than 1,500 hours of volunteer service were compressed
into a single day of work. The resulting improvements at the park are still
As all volunteer organization there were still necessary funds. Viva Il Vino kicked of in 1998 and celebrates 15 years. Themes and locations change but the focus is always the wine and raising up to $50,000 annually.
2000 In 2000, Forum 35 facilitated Baton Rouge's participation in a Harvard University research study designed by Robert Putnam known as the Social Capital Survey. The study revealed that our city is above the national and southern average for civic opportunity, although we have room for growth when it comes to race relations. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to enhance community pride, Forum 35 launched the We Are BR! campaign, which is known for a public awareness series as well as support of the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott 50th Anniversary Observance (2003).
2001 In 2001, the group started engaging leaders at Forum Fridays to create continued dialogue on issues in our community.
2003 Our city was selected as one of 33 others across the country to participate in a Harvard University research study designed by Robert Putnam, known as the Social Capital Survey. The study revealed that our city is above the national and southern average for civic opportunity, with growth needed in the area of race relations. Forum 35 championed the study's findings by enhancing community pride through We Are BR! and by supporting the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott 50th Anniversary Observance in 2003.
2004 John W. Barton Sr. was committed to Baton Rouge's nonprofit sector for over 75 years including his desire to see young professionals become the future leaders. Inspired by Mr. Barton's passion in 2004, Forum 35 created the John W. Barton, Sr. Community Leadership Development Program in Partnership with the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations (LANO).
2005 Art Mob was created to assist in supporting and sustaining smaller arts organizations in Baton Rouge with limited access to advertising opportunities. Modeled on "flash mob” events, members were invited via email to attend art events. The ArtMob generated a larger audience and therefore, a larger profit for these organizations. It also created a welcoming community around the arts.
2007 Forum 35 realized that within our organization the racial divide was not proportionate. We maintained about 3 percent of an ethnic membership outside of Caucasian. For this reason, along with the realization that this divide is also representative within the city, they formed a Cultural Diversity Committee. Our main focus was to discuss what we have in common, not our differences. Forum 35 began partnering with 100 Black Men and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.
Plan Baton Rouge Stefanos Polyzoides' lecture on New Urbanism in April 2007 as part of the Marcia Kaplan Kantrow Lecture Series for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation inspired BRAF and Forum35 to investigate the principles of new urbanism to see how they could be applied to Baton Rouge. Our members played a critical role in researching, developing and implementing a new urbanism plan for our city. The efforts resulted in hiring noted urbanist Andres Duany to conduct a community brainstorming session. Forum 35 became the catalyst organization for the creation of Plan Baton Rouge—a blueprint for the re-development of downtown into a 24-hour city.
2011 Cultural Diversity Initiative kicked of it's now annual event, Mixture. How we display ourselves daily shows a great deal about our background, culture, and unique sense of self. The event's attendees come together to celebrate differences through art, fashion, music, dance and much more.
2013 Forum 35 is currently in the strategic planning process to ensure the organization can sustain for another 20 years. With the guidance of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Forum 35 has identified three core pillars: Arts and Culture, Diversity and leadership. We look forward to seeing you this year and invite to join in building the young leaders of our community.