Sitar Arts Center

Sitar Arts Center

Sitar Arts Center
1700 Kalorama Road, NW
Suite 101
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-797-2145
Fax: 202-483-0789

Focus: Multidisciplinary

Annual Number Participating: 700

Ages: Elementary, Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $1,402,906


“For students living in Washington, DC’s Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights neighborhoods, Sitar Arts Center stands as a beacon of hope. Although gangs and crime are facts of life among the streets and alleys in these diverse inner-city neighborhoods, youth only have to walk through the doors of Sitar’s current 10,700-square-foot stone-and-glass building to find a world of alternate possibilities.

Here, after school and on Saturdays during the academic year, preteens and teens can be found stretching at the barre in the ballet studio, working at a potter’s wheel in a light-filled studio, or creating their own comic book characters. They might be working with a designer to develop costumes for a theater production; learning how to wield rapiers in a stage-combat class; writing songs; creating podcasts; or studying such instruments as violin, saxophone, cello, or bass. In addition, in summer, Sitar offers six-week classes in musical theater and mural painting.

This amazing array of choices—Sitar offers more than 70 classes a semester—is made possible, in part, by the generosity of more than 120 local artists who volunteer their time, one afternoon a week, to teach in the program. Sitar also has developed partnerships with some of the city’s premier arts organizations, which provide instructors, as well as free professional performances, at no cost to the school. For example, Arena Stage leads playwriting classes, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company teaches stage combat, while the Corcoran Gallery of Art loans digital-media teachers.

Together, these volunteer instructors allow Sitar to keep classes affordable for its 700 students, 80 percent of whom come from lower-income households. Under the school’s sliding fee scale, families can take unlimited classes for as little as $15 a semester. To remain in good standing, young people must abide by attendance rules and, if they’re studying an instrument, practice regularly.

By offering vulnerable inner-city students a safe, positive environment for after-school activities, Sitar enriches their lives through the arts. “We’re using the arts absolutely to nourish the soul, while providing other benefits, such as the discipline and responsibility that go with learning the arts,” explains Executive Director Ed Spitzberg.”

“Through teaching someone else a skill that people taught me, I’m continuing the process of passing wonderful things to the next generation.”

Vedant Koppera Violin Teacher, Sitar Arts Center