Kandis Wallace, WWPR Member, Marketing Manager, University of Maryland – Robert H. Smith School of Business

Research consistently shows that when young people from low-income neighborhoods have access to affordable and creative extracurricular programs, they are more likely to experience more future professional opportunities. Sitar Arts Center’s Mural Arts Program offers young people the opportunity to collaboratively create large murals for area businesses during the summer. While interns improve their painting skills, the program challenges them to develop additional competencies that will help them succeed in life.

What is Sitar’s Mural Arts Program?

“The Mural Arts Program began eleven years ago to give interns who wanted a more active role behind the scenes in musical theater productions,” says Loretta Thompson, the senior director of operations for Sitar Arts Center.

Today, interns between 14 and 24 years old apply for the program in the winter for summer acceptance. If accepted, they work in the mornings throughout the summer to create large mural panels commissioned by a community partner.

Last year’s cohort worked closely with Occasions Caterers, a Brookland-based event company, to create an “underwater” food mural. The painted mural panels were installed outside of the Occasions Catering facility and are now visible to Red Line Metro riders in DC.

Skills the Mural Arts Program Develops

Here are three skills the program develops to prepare young people for the future:

Creating art to meet business objectives

Many of the artists are used to creating freely. Working with experts who had specific instructions for interns challenged them to think critically about how they can create compelling art while also helping businesses meet their specific needs.

 Leveraging the strengths of others on the team

When undergoing parts of the painting process, interns usually face challenges that require the skills of another teammate. Our interns recognized and relied on their teammate’s individual strengths to keep the project moving forward.

 Managing time constraints

The interns only have six weeks to complete the mural. To manage their time well, the students follow an established creative process to ensure all benchmarks are completed on time.

Continuing Relationships with Trusted Partners

This year, the eight students in the Mural Arts Program will continue to work with Occasions Caterers to create a 30-foot mural to be displayed at their Brookland facility. “Though the details of this year’s project are currently being discussed, the Center will provide several experts to train the students before they officially begin working,” says Thompson.

Sitar’s Commitment to Excellence and Professional Development

Sitar’s Mural Arts Program is part of the organization’s Workforce Development Program. This year, Sitar’s Workforce Development Program will provide 47 interns between the ages of 14 and 24 years old with the opportunity to develop their artistic and professional skills alongside community partners. These skills prepare them to work as mural artists, theater techs and other roles in the creative economy.

Summer interns in Sitar’s Workforce Development Program

Summer interns in Sitar’s Workforce Development Program are also paid for their work. Mural Arts and Musical Theatre Program interns are primarily compensated through Marion Berry’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Sitar also provides additional funds to interns who demonstrate excellence in the program.