The James R. Halsey (JRH) Foundation of the Arts recently purchased themselves a new home at 535. East Franklin St. The soon-to-be refurbished building will become the primary production space for the foundation students to learn about filmmaking, podcasting, media and other educational skills in the production industry. As the Foundation continues to alter and remodel the old building into a proper work and learning environment, they are asking the community for help and generous support.

The JRH Foundation created a GoFundMe account for this campaign called “Building Hope.” After signing the lease on the the property at the first of this month, the team and students involved in the program headed straight to work on remodeling the interior.

“For us, having our own space is very important,” said Joseph Halsey, founder of the JRH Foundation. “This way, we can set up things with all the equipment instead of carrying the equipment in many different places. That’s important to us; and it’s also important to us that we will leave the doors open at least 10 hours a day, because we want to teach [our students] how to use the equipment, but we also want to offer them the opportunity to come to work on their projects anytime they want, as long as they block off the time.”

The Foundation’s goal is to help enrich the lives of students ages 14 to 20 by promoting creativity and providing life-skills training in business and the arts. The JRH Foundation aims to not only provide these arts students with valuable industry insight, but also a community of like-minded peers and instructors who wish to see them succeed.

“My most favorite thing about this program is the people, not only the students I work along with, [but] also the teachers and the mentors that help you learn about all these cool things – all about film making and scripts and camera work,” said JRH student and newly accepted Harvard Student Eric Vasquez in the “Building Hope” fundraiser video. “It all comes together and makes you feel like you’re somewhere where you belong.”

According to Halsey, a sense of belonging and skill-building is the ultimate goal. That is why he has used every outlet in his power to provide this new home for the film students.

Halsey is also the founder of the construction company called HCC Commercial Contracting. Through his second business, he was able to hire contractors to help renovate the building at a lower cost. “I kind of have my different hats,” said Halsey, “but that’s just the way we do it. We have the film company that I’m part of, the construction company that I’m a part of and the Foundation. Between those three things, that keeps me busy.”

The Foundation students, Halsey and his construction company have teamed together to produce serious progress over the last couple weeks. The group completed their first, and most important room about a week ago.

First room to be completed in the JRH Foundation’s new building | Photo provided by Joseph Halsey

“That’s the main office we’ll be running the foundation from. It’s where there’ll be a desk and [we’ll be] making calls and organizing everyone,” said Halsey. “That’s going to be the main hub; and when people come down and they’re willing to donate to the space, we can start entertaining now. That’s why we finished that one first.”

Despite the joint effort put in to get one main room refurbished, there is still plenty of further work the building needs. The JRH Foundation plans to construct offices for instructors to plan course material, a kitchenette to have meals with the students and staff, a room designated strictly for filming and experimenting with camera equipment and an editing room that will feature four to five Mac computers, one hooked up directly to a massive 72 inch TV screen for editing projects collectively. With the help of donations, the JRH Foundation is that much closer to making their dream school into a reality.

Although the Foundation has been operating on a remote basis since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Halsey has hopes and future plans for a gradual increase in in-person instruction. As a mid-term goal, Halsey anticipates teaching around 200 students a year. If the Foundation can get their new building renovated in time, they will have plenty of space. “Eventually, when the kids get back in school, the great thing about this place is they have a grassy area where we can maybe even teach outside, which we’re looking forward to doing,” said Halsey.

As the Foundation continues the restoration of their new property, the team hopes the community will pitch in to secure the new home for the JRH film student.

“This is going to be their permanent home. This is built strictly for that,” said Halsey. “That’s the thing about it that’s awesome.”

To donate to The JRH Foundation of the Arts Building Hope fund, click HERE.