Strategic Plan Series: Expanding to Young Adulthood
Do you remember your first “real” job? Mine was at the Smith Haven Mall in the junior’s clothing department of Steinbach Department Store. (I was 16, and it was a rocky start. On my first day, the 18-year-old who was “training” me left me alone and bewildered at the register so that she and a buddy could hit the Orange Julius.)
My part-time jobs in food service and retail, along with the help of my parents, enabled me to study theater in college and pursue a career that fuels me with purpose. But a lot has changed in the decades since I was a teenager. Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, and room and board for an undergraduate degree increased 169%.
The current cost of a four-year college pathway is often prohibitive for Sitar Arts Center’s young artists and their families. Meanwhile, systemic, financial, and cultural inequities disproportionately impact Black, Hispanic, and Latinx youth and their ability to access workforce development opportunities.
The results: higher rates of youth joblessness and lowered lifetime earnings for many young people living in Washington, DC, exacerbated by COVID-19 impacts.
We’ve examined this reality from a variety of angles as we address our role in ensuring a different experience for the youth at Sitar. Most importantly, we asked our older teen students and recent Sitar alumni to help us define the vision for Sitar in the future. Many shared that growing up at Sitar sparked a passion to pursue artistic and creative careers. But the pathways to those careers are not straightforward. Our students were clear: the need for their Sitar community of deep belonging and arts learning does not end after high school. And it was apparent what we needed to do: create alternative, meaningful training and pathways to purposeful, family-sustaining careers in the creative industries.
Sitar has been an artistic home for youth from early childhood through high school graduation for 23 years. Driven by the increase in youth unemployment and rising rates of youth disengagement in DC, and with the voices of our students guiding us, we chose our second focus area of Sitar’s 2022-2027 strategic plan—Expand Our Continuum to Young Adulthood.
Over the next five years, Sitar will build on the strong summer workforce development programs we have in place. In the early 2000’s, we began hiring a few interns each summer, paid in partnership with the DC Summer Youth Employment Program. Sitar’s Emerging Arts Leaders program has grown to 50 paid summer arts interns.
Now, we are prepared to take arts-based workforce development to the next level, and to take our programming to the next level of human development – young adulthood.
In 2022, Sitar launched the DC Bloomberg Arts Internship program, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. We placed 25 rising high school seniors in paid internships at renowned DC cultural institutions such as The Washington Ballet, The National Gallery of Art, and Washington Performing Arts. Two days each week, the interns were at Sitar, amplifying the hands-on job experience with career and college readiness training. This summer, Sitar will train and place 30 Bloomberg Arts Interns.
Today, Sitar Arts Center is proud to be part of a creative solution for both youth and the creative economy in DC. As DC theaters return to full seasons of live performances, they need skilled technicians to run the shows. Sitar joins The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, Life Pieces To Masterpieces, and Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in the Arts Institute for Cultural Advancement—a new apprenticeship program in technical theater for youth ages 18-24.
And there is much more to come. In fall of 2024, we will Expand Our Continuum to Young Adulthood year-round, offering arts-based workforce development programs for 16–24-year-olds at Sitar Next Door. Stay tuned for the digital arts training pilot that will launch in our current space this fall!
Sitar envisions a city in which every child is supported on their path to discover their creativity and achieve their full potential. To bring that vision to reality, new and accessible pathways to purposeful, well-paid jobs are essential. Sitar is ready to build those pathways for young adults who want to step into the creative economy in DC. Join us, as Sitar builds the next stage.
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 deeper understanding and insight on how and why we’re growing our impact in four primary areas:
- Grow in Place as a Community Anchor for DC
- Expand Our Continuum to Young Adulthood
- Deepen Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
- 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.