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TaWanna Berry, Pro Bono Committee Member, Sr. Director, Health Communications Westat

With less than 50 days until the end of the school year, many parents are scrambling to plan summer activities. The options seem endless, and many camps in the city are in high demand--including Camp Sitar—a six-week visual performing arts day camp for students in grades K-8.

Extending Sitar Arts Center’s mission of engaging children and teens in high-quality visual, performing and digital arts, Camp Sitar provides students the opportunity to continue to explore those art forms during the summer.

“Students are getting some great experiences,” says Loretta Thompson, Senior Director of Operations at Sitar. “All of the students get at least four classes a day, so over the course of the summer students can get anywhere from 16 to 20 classes. We have every art form here in the summertime, and at some point, students would try, at least try, something they may not have done before.”

Students take classes such as dance, music, photography, acrylic painting, watercolor, as well as leadership and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) classes. At the end of each session, campers take part in a showcase to display or perform what they learned to their fellow students, teachers, and family. Students in grades 4-12 can also register for the Summer Musical Theater Program where they get to participate in a Broadway-style musical under professional direction and design. Students in grades 6-8 can also participate in the Musical Theater Workshop after rehearsal, in classes such as scenic painting, theater prop making, costume making, sound, lighting and stage design. This year’s production is Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka.

The benefits of Camp Sitar can be seen well after camp is over. “I’ve had students that start off shy,” noted Thompson. “For example, they don’t know how to tap dance or play an instrument, but at the end of a two-week session can dance a whole choreographed piece or play the guitar. They are building their confidence by playing that guitar that they just learned to play two weeks ago in front of an audience.”

It is not only confidence the students are building, but also accountability. Sitar’s C.R.E.A.T.E. Values are a cornerstone to the mission of the camp. The values state that Sitar artists are:

Compassionate for each other and our community
Responsible for their actions and reactions
Eager to listen, learn and be active
Aspiring to become the best person and artist
Team players in the classroom and with their friends
Engaged in class and their art

With the values posted in every classroom, students are encouraged to embody them as much as possible. “The values are easily transferred back to how students should behave in school, how they should treat each other in the classroom,” says Thompson. “By keeping the values students can really participate and get everything they need from school. They can take them wherever they go.”

After a few sessions, parents even notice that their children are also a bit more independent. “I had a parent jokingly ask ‘What have you done with my little girl? She doesn’t need me anymore,’” recounted Thompson. The mother noticed that after a few sessions at the camp, her child felt comfortable doing things on her own where she usually would have asked for help. Thompson credits that to Camp Sitar’s structure–each student knows their schedule, where they need to be, and they transition to their classes on their own or as a group. This structure especially helps the younger kids gain a little more independence and prepares them for managing their class schedules when school starts in the Fall.

However, what is camp without some of the traditional summer activities, such as field trips, swimming, or just being outdoors? Camp Sitar has that covered.

“We have lots of fun too,” says Thompson. “We have planned activities every week including s’mores day, field day and water day. Moreover, we do field trips – one every session. Our trips are usually arts related, but sometimes we go to the zoo or the pool. Last year we went to the water park, and the kids had a blast.”

Throughout the day, students also have free time. This year Sitar has set up “Hang Outs” for the older students, grades 4-8, to choose how they want to use their free time. Hang Out spaces include a Jam Session, Reading Lounge, and Art Studio. Students can also opt to go outside with friends. The younger students, grades K-3, have a morning and afternoon recess that they spend outdoors playing. Sitar believes it is essential for students to experience these traditional summer activities as well.

Overall, Camp Sitar is a quality arts camp that strives to introduce children to new art forms and have them tap into their creative side. “Many students come and don’t even realize they like art. They don’t know what it is until they start doing it,” says Thompson.

Camp Sitar is an excellent opportunity to be able to open a child’s mind by having them experience art and then see how they choose to apply it in their lives. It truly is a special place, doing fantastic work.

Camp Sitar is broken into three, two-week sessions. Each session is based on a theme that is also connected to Sitar’s summer musical. Students in grades K-3 are in Kid Crafters and have five tracks with different art forms and classes that change each session. Young Expressionists, grades 4-8, choose individual classes for each session. 2019 Camp Sitar is completely full, but mark your calendars for early March when registration opens for 2020 Camp Sitar.