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Sitar Arts Center Revels in New Adams Morgan Home

But $900,000 More Must Be Raised By December to Purchase Space

By Jonathan Padget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2004; Page C05

The Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts in Adams Morgan unveiled spiffy new digs at an open house last weekend. The center occupies 10,700 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor of a residential building at 17th Street and Kalorama Road NW.

Its new home is four times larger than its former location nearby on Ontario Road. The center offers after-school and weekend classes in art, music, dance, drama and creative writing -- primarily serving children from low-income households in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant.

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The Sitar Center hopes to purchase its new space but must raise $900,000 -- the final stretch of a $3.3 million capital campaign -- by December to do so, says its communications director, Emma White. Otherwise, the center must lease the space until its next purchase option in 2007 -- a scenario that could make the property too expensive to buy.

Pride and excitement upstaged financial matters, however, as students led tours during the open house, pointing out such features as brightly painted art and dance studios, music practice rooms, a theater, an art gallery and a computer lab for writing classes.

"It's great," said Amber Robinson, 9, at the conclusion of a tour. "It's much bigger and has a lot of colorful designs."

Amber, who takes saxophone, flute and ballet lessons, is one of the center's 150 students -- a number the center hopes to double by the spring and increase to 500 by 2007.

As for her studies, Amber says, "I want to keep working on them until I get really good, and then I'll take some other classes."

For more information about the Sitar Center, call 202-797-2145 or visit www.sitarcenter.org.

WPA\C's 'Options'

Details for the 2005 edition of Options, the contemporary art biennial sponsored by Washington Project for the Arts\Corcoran, are still being worked out. (They're aiming for a spring exhibition but haven't settled on dates or a venue.) But Options curator Philip Barlow is sure of one thing: Party Animals and PandaMania artists need not apply.

Barlow hopes to have a slate of 15 artists chosen by the end of the year, and he says he has evaluated more than 100 artists -- including seven whose credits include decorating a donkey or elephant for 2002's citywide public art project, or a panda for this year's sequel.

"They made a bad choice, and there are consequences to bad choices," says Barlow.

The sponsor of the love-'em-or-hate-'em critters, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, reports the creation of 100 donkeys, 100 elephants and 150 pandas -- making a potentially considerable number of artists whose wrath Barlow is willing to incur.

Much of Barlow's opposition to Party Animals and PandaMania participants would be alleviated, he says, had a different civic agency -- such as a tourism bureau -- sponsored the projects and refrained from heralding them as public art.

"To call those things art, I don't believe is right," says Barlow. "I don't think artists should have supported the projects."

Despite his disdain, though, Barlow doesn't necessarily fit the stereotype of an art snob. An avid collector but first-time curator, he works as a D.C. government actuary. Barlow serves on the board of directors of the D.C. Arts Center, where he chairs the visual arts committee. He has also served on the steering committee for the last two Art-O-Matic exhibitions -- the huge nonjuried shows that have been known to draw as much ire from art aficionados as, well, Party Animals and pandas.

Barlow says he brings an "activist bent" to Options, striving to find and consider minority artists -- particularly blacks and Latinos -- who lack connections to the art establishment. "I'm looking at art every day," he says. "It seems like other curators don't get out enough to be confident that [exhibitions] show the absolute best work out there."

To learn more about Options, call 202-639-1828 or visit www.wpaconline.org.

Orchestral Art

The National Symphony Orchestra has announced a competition to create a commemorative artwork to help market the orchestra's 75th anniversary season in 2005-06. A variety of media will be considered, including prints, drawings, paintings, collages and photographs. The winning artist will receive $2,500.

The competition is open to all artists and graphic designers, with preference given to Washington area residents. The deadline is Oct. 15. For more information, call 202-416-8112 or visit www.nationalsymphony.org.


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