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Sitar Arts Center advances the critical life skills of underserved children and youth and prepares them for achievement in the 21st century through visual, performing, and digital arts education in a nurturing community.
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In 1996, Rhonda Buckley was directing a small afterschool music education program for inner-city children from low-income homes at Good Shepherd Ministries. Seeing that music brought the students great joy, Rhonda also realized that the structure and discipline that the study of music required was positively influencing other areas of their lives. The children’s attendance and grades in school were improving, and they seemed increasingly confident. The students asked for more: they wanted to learn how to dance and act and paint and write creatively.
While Rhonda was running this small music program, she met Patricia Sitar, a talented artist, community activist and life-long advocate for children in the Adams Morgan community. Both knew that the arts had changed their lives and that the young children in the neighborhood needed, wanted, and deserved the same opportunities to explore and develop their artistic talents. After researching arts education options for her students, Rhonda realized few existed that were affordable and accessible for families with low incomes.
Rhonda’s vision was to provide the Adams Morgan community, specifically the under-served residents, with affordable, high-quality arts education in a beautiful facility, designed specifically for multidisciplinary arts education. This vision, which had the children and the community’s youth at its heart, soon became a reality. Sitar Arts Center was founded in 1998, originally named The Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts after namesake Pat Sitar.
Rhonda knew that this vision was grand and that it could not be accomplished alone. She enlisted the help and support of close friends, including Bitsey Folger and Gordon Cosby, and met new friends along the way, including Septime Webre from Sitar Arts Center's first "artistic partner," The Washington Ballet.
Sitar Arts Center officially opened in 2000, providing programs to 50 children within the walls of a 2,600 square foot basement in a subsidized-housing apartment building. The curriculum quickly broadened from music to include dance, visual arts, drama and creative writing, all taught by volunteer artists and partnering arts organizations. Soon, Sitar was in need of much more space.
In 2003, Sitar Arts Center launched a successful $3.3 million Comprehensive Campaign, enabling it to procure, renovate and operate in a new and significantly larger home, designed to provide optimal education in the arts. In the fall of 2004, Sitar Arts Center moved into its current state-of-the art, 10,700 square-foot-facility designed to provide optimal arts education. The student body rapidly grew, and by 2005 Sitar Arts Center served more than 300 students each semester.
Today, as in 2000, Sitar Arts Center remains firmly rooted in its vision that every child deserves a high-quality arts education, and eighty percent of students come from low-income households each semester and the Center is currently serving over 700 students each year.