Strategic Plan Series: Growing in Place
Welcome to the first of four posts in our blog series about Sitar’s bold strategic vision and five-year plan!
Sometimes, the vision for the future is born from a simple question. For me, it is a question I have fielded many times over the last decade: “Why does Sitar Arts Center stay in Adams Morgan when the neighborhood and Ward 1 have changed so much?” It is an essential question, especially as we’ve conceptualized our strategic road map for the next five years. When you are partnering with youth and families to create a community of belonging, place really matters.
However, when your community’s abiding purpose is to advance equity, you need to ask a different question: Can Sitar stay right here, in enduring partnership and solidarity with families who want to continue to live, work, and learn in our vibrant, culturally diverse, and resource-rich corner of the city?
The reality is, neighborhoods across the city are rapidly changing and there are simply not enough affordable options for arts education, out-of-school time programs, and workforce development in DC for families with economic barriers. Nearly 40% of children living in DC reside in Wards 1, 4, and 5, where most of our current Sitar students live. One in four children still live in poverty in Ward 1 and the rate increases to one in two for Black children. And in Ward 5, there are fewer affordable out-of-school time seats than anywhere else in the city.
The data shows us that moving is not the answer. Even more importantly, Sitar students and parents, and alumni tell us that Sitar is their artistic home, they want Sitar to remain rooted in Adams Morgan, and they need our programs to grow. Between rising costs of living and trends of unemployment experienced during the pandemic, many families with lower incomes need affordable out-of-school time care to regain a strong financial footing.
This is why our community’s clear call to remain rooted in Adams Morgan drives the first focus area of our new five-year strategic plan—Grow in Place as a Community Anchor for DC.
Our commitment to that growth is bold and imminent, and right next door as we embark on a 6,346 square foot expansion. The launch of Sitar Next Door—anchoring a new Jubilee Housing development—will allow Sitar to enroll hundreds more students in affordable afterschool and summer arts education programs each year. Students can explore the next level of their arts learning in the new recording and sound engineering studio, S.T.E.A.M. lab with film studio, flexible performance space, and more.
Growth as a community anchor is not only about space. It is also what fills that space – people, programs, and partnerships. Over the next five years, we will evolve our programming to meet the current—and future—needs of our students. Our expanded workforce development programs will create opportunities for young adults to continue their learning and growth at Sitar, while preparing them for career and college opportunities. We’ve outlined strategies to ensure Sitar’s incredible staff members are similarly positioned for the future. By building on existing partnerships and forging new ones, we will grow the vital network that supports Sitar and reach our bold vision for the future.
Why does Sitar stay—and grow—in Adams Morgan? Because we dream of a city in which every neighborhood is culturally and economically diverse, and every child has the opportunities and support needed to realize their full potential. For 22 years, Sitar has built trust and relationships to become a community anchor in Ward 1. Over the next five years, we are determined to deepen our roots, nurture our growing community of belonging, and create opportunities alongside our most valued collaborators at the center of our mission: youth and families in DC.
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.