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Strategic Plan Series: Evolving Our Identity to Support Our Future STARs

Welcome to the fourth and final installation of our blog series about Sitar’s bold strategic vision and five-year plan.

As a child, did you ever imagine growing up and becoming a superstar athlete, or a rock star, or a movie star? This summer, more students than ever before are enrolled in Camp Sitar. Many of those students will come through our doors in pursuit of big dreams – fronting a pop band, headlining a Broadway marquee, landing a solo exhibition at a major museum – dreams of becoming a visual or performing arts “star.”  

DC youth and families know that Sitar is a place where they can dream big – our arts programs are inclusive, high in quality, and affordable for all. It is a wonderful identity, and one we fully embrace. 

Today, however, we need to broaden that identity. Sitar is preparing to support young adults with aspirations of becoming different types of “STARs” – professionals who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes. 

The term STARs was coined by the innovators and researchers at Opportunity@Work. There is a massive pool of 70+ million adults in the U.S. who are highly skilled through community college, workforce training, certificate programs, military service, or on-the-job learning, rather than through a bachelor’s degree.  

Closer to home, Sitar’s research reveals that after completing high school, many of our students are fueled with artistic purpose and passion but encounter financial and cultural barriers to the traditional four-year college path. They are actively seeking alternative pathways to develop their creative skills that will launch their careers. 

It is a natural next step in Sitar’s mission to create transformational community with youth in DC: to design and offer equitable pathways to well-paying jobs in creative industries.   

Our alumni also share the urgency to earn money now to sustain themselves and their families; an urgency that can stand in the way of college or other training. In response, Sitar is designing workforce development programs that are “earn to learn.” 

It is a bold move on Sitar’s part to commit to paying the emerging workforce as they learn, perhaps the biggest leap we’ve ever taken. It requires extensive technology, deep partnerships, new funding streams, and carefully designed learning spaces. 

And it is a risk that we know we must take.  

The fourth pillar of Sitar’s strategic plan — Evolve our Business Model and Brand Identity — underpins our big and bold move and, in fact, our whole strategic plan. To meet our community’s demand, we must evolve as we grow and expand. We need to elevate our communications and marketing initiatives, employ more sophisticated recruitment strategies, and most essentially, develop diversified earned income streams to sustain the crucial growth. 

Our new ArtsAdvance program pilot will launch in Sitar’s current space this fall, with a year-long digital arts career studio that will prepare trainees, aged 18-24, for careers in graphic design, web design, and user-experience design. We are already receiving applications from young creatives who want training but cannot afford to pay for it and whose families need them to contribute financially. ArtsAdvance is built for them. 

For more than a decade, Sitar has been building meaningful workforce development programs with partners that enable an “earn to learn” model over the summer.  

This summer, like our record number of campers, Sitar has more interns aged 14-24 than ever before. Over 30 young people will participate in our Sitar Emerging Arts Leaders (SEAL) internship program and will be paid through DC’s Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. Another 30 are interns through our second year as the DC partner for the Bloomberg Arts Internship, with Bloomberg Philanthropies funding Sitar to pay those interns for seven weeks. 

We can’t wait to add ArtsAdvance this fall. It is the next scaffold to our workforce development programming, and we need your help. Join us in shouting from the rooftops that Sitar is a place to learn and grow from birth, through elementary and middle school, high school, and now beyond! What other ideas do you have for Sitar to evolve our brand identity, strengthen our business model, and secure more earned income?  

I can’t wait to hear from you and truly appreciate you leaping with us into the future and leaping with our future STARS. 

Read more about our five-year plan to accomplish this bold vision for the future.

Sitar Arts Center recently announced its 5-year strategic plan to grow and expand our services, arts programs, and community spaces. In this limited blog series, written by Sitar’s Executive Director, Maureen Dwyer, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and insight into how and why we’re growing our impact in four primary areas: 

  1. Grow in Place as a Community Anchor for DC 
  1. Expand Our Continuum to Young Adulthood 
  1. Deepen Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging 
  1. Evolve our Business Model and Brand Identity 

As we look ahead to the next five years and beyond, we invite you to follow along, get involved, and join the Sitar community as we work toward our bold vision for the future of arts education in DC.