RAC Revives Impactful Job Training Program for College Students

February 10, 2022

The Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC) is excited to bring back the Gyo Obata Fellowship in 2022. The job training program is tailored specifically for undergraduate students pursuing careers in arts management. With major funding provided by the Gateway Foundation, the program addresses the need for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable local nonprofit arts and culture sector. Applications open in February – apply now!

Named in honor of Gyo Obata, renowned architect and co-founder of HOK, a global design, architecture and engineering firm, the Gyo Obata Fellowship will embed students within local nonprofit arts organizations where they will receive paid training opportunities.


Lillian Gardner was selected as a Gyo Obata Fellow in 2019 and was placed at the National Blues Hall of Fame. “I had a really great experience. I felt challenged and respected. The people I worked with were very welcoming and inclusive,” she said. During her paid internship, Gardner gained crucial marketing and programming experience – creating original educational content and marketing materials and conducting research.

Using the skills she gained in the Gyo Obata Fellowship, Gardner has been quite busy. The Webster University graduate (2020) is currently writing a novel, launching a brand, and starting the process of creating an organization that helps underserved populations in the art field. “The organization will be dedicated to connecting area youth to various art opportunities around the St. Louis area,” Gardner explained, “providing them a space to create and establish connections through mentorships. I always say I want to be the role model I wish I had when I was younger.”


The Gyo Obata Fellowship launched in 2019, and its first year was a great success. As applications were being accepted for 2020, the pandemic came on in full force. The decision was made to put the program on hold. “It was an extremely tough decision,” said Vanessa Cooksey, president and CEO of RAC. “We had to keep the safety of our program attendees at the forefront.”

After a two-year hiatus, the time is right to bring the program back this summer. “This program was designed for students traditionally underrepresented in the arts,” explained Cooksey. “This is an amazing opportunity for college students working towards careers in arts administration with a hands-on introduction to arts nonprofits in St. Louis City and County.”


Applications will open for the Gyo Obata Fellowship on Feb. 1, 2022. The application process will close on April 1, 2022. In order to be eligible for the program, students must meet the following qualifications:

  • Currently enrolled in any bachelor’s degree-seeking program of an accredited college or university in the greater St. Louis area.
  • Students who are enrolled in an accredited college or university outside of the St. Louis area may apply but must reside in St. Louis City or County.
  • Entering their third or fourth year of undergraduate studies, have at least 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university, or have graduated within a year of the program start date.
  • Must also be able to legally work within the United States.

For more information about the program, please visit https://racstl.org/programs/gyo-obata-fellowship/.