LONDON — Louis Vuitton is teaming with five London museums and galleries to help local, mostly underprivileged youths tap into the art scene here.

This story first appeared in the May 13, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In anticipation of the opening of its New Bond Street Maison later this month, the French brand has given upward of 1 million pounds, or $1.49 million at current exchange, and will offer business guidance and expertise for a three-year program aimed at exposing young Londoners to every aspect of the art world — from painting to public relations.

“It’s about young people seeing the back-of-house operations in the art world, and opening up all sorts of opportunities for future careers,” said Iwona Blazwick, director of Whitechapel Gallery, during a news conference at the Royal Academy of Arts on Wednesday.

Whitechapel is taking part in the initiative along with Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, South London Gallery and Tate Britain.

Margot Heller, director of South London Gallery, said the program is meant to inspire. The students, she said, will be recruited through schools and local communities and will be given access to artists’ studios, galleries, auction houses and art fairs, and will take part in creative exercises at the various museums and galleries.

Keith Tyson, Tracey Emin and Gary Hume will be among the artists taking part in the initiative, which also foresees the creation of a Web site aimed at helping young people tap into London’s cultural life. Art collector Judith Greer and Matthew Slotover, co-founder of London’s annual Frieze Art Fair and co-publisher of Frieze Magazine, will also be taking part.

Yves Carcelle, chairman and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton, said “transmitting savoir faire and creativity is one of our founding cornerstones,” adding the company had a social responsibility worldwide. “We have chosen to dedicate our charity work to children,” he said.

The program, which has been tested with some students, will kick off officially during the first week of August.

London Mayor Boris Johnson — a blustery, colorful figure with a joyous sense of humor — took part in the press conferenc and stole the show. He told the audience that, as a young teen, he used to wander alone through the rooms of the British Museum. “And, it’s made me what I am today,” he said.

A die-hard Conservative who was clearly busting with joy at David Cameron’s installation this week as prime minister, Johnson applauded the program. “According to the new Conservative philosophy, you can’t have wealth creation without a social mission, and you can’t have a social mission without wealth creation,” he said.

In a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s homespun economic philosophy, he said: “Louis Vuitton has given a new meaning to handbag economics.”

The Louis Vuitton Maison opens to the public on May 28.