An article in the Dec. 26 Style section about the Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts incorrectly reported the name of the Jacob & Charlotte Lehrman Foundation. (Published 1/3/03)
It's been an especially good month at the Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts. The relatively young after-school program in Adams Morgan not only received a Mayor's Arts Award and a $25,000 check from the Robert Lehrman Family Foundation but also found a bigger home.
It's time to move out and up in the world.
The center offers classes in music, visual arts, creative writing, theater and dance each weekday afternoon and on Saturdays. About 150 children participate at the center, which charges $10 a semester for each student, who then can take as many classes as he or she wants. The program's strong reliance on volunteer teachers provides a high level of community involvement. And it helps keep costs down.
The center started in 1996 as the musical component of Good Shepherd Ministries, an after-school academic program that Patricia M. Sitar formed in 1985. Known back then as the Good Shepherd Music Center, the program became stable enough after a few years to spin off on its own. When it did, executive director and founder Rhonda M. Buckley named the center for Sitar.
In January 2000, the Sitar Center opened in the basement of an apartment building at 2525 Ontario Rd. NW.
"We really want to be able to offer an expressive outlet for kids," says Buckley.
She says the students at the community center reflect the racial, ethnic and class diversity of the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
"We don't want kids to not be able to take classes here because they can't afford it," she says.
The nonprofit school depends on volunteers -- some of whom are from the Washington Conservatory, the Levine School of Music, the Washington Ballet and the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
That's what caught the eye of Robert Lehrman, president of the Hirshhorn Museum's board of trustees.
"We were so tremendously impressed with the sense of participation," says Lehrman, whose family foundation awarded the center its annual Impact Award at a holiday concert this month. The prize includes a $25,000 check.
The center also received the Mayor's Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education at a ceremony at the Lincoln Theatre this month.
The Sitar Center's small facilities have forced it to turn some children away, Buckley says. But that problem will be solved soon. Its $25,000 award enabled the center to sign a lease last week for a new space in the neighborhood that's four times larger than the one on Ontario. Buckley hopes to be moved by the fall and has plans to increase the center's capacity to 500 children.
There are also plans to open the program -- limited to Adams Morgan so far -- to the nearby communities of Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant.
The music program is the largest and most popular aspect of the center, but contrary to its name, no one plays the sitar. Buckley, who plays the saxophone professionally, says that's only because they haven't found someone to teach it.
She says, "If a sitar player emerged, that would be so cool."
Drawn to Faces
Scott Fertig likes faces. He's obsessed.
He goes to the local Starbucks weekly for a face fix and a shot of caffeine as he surreptitiously draws in his sketchbook.
Ten years ago, he found a way to feed his compulsion and make a little money -- all on the up and up. Fertig is a caricaturist, specifically, a caricaturist who works the party scene.
At a recent holiday party for C.W. Strittmatter, a trucking company, Fertig set up near the entrance, his homemade contraption of art supplies on his right, a marquee of caricatures on his left. As he worked, the likes of Tiger Woods, Cher, Jennifer Aniston and Mr. Spock looked over his shoulder.
Soon Fertig was outlining the features of two brothers who'd sat down across from him.
"I'm going to frame it for sure," said the boys' mother.
Mark Cornwell, whose wife works for the Strittmatter company, watched Fertig work.
"It's the little things that he does that bring it to life -- a little color on the eyebrows," Cornwell said.
Fertig uses pencils and pens, markers and paint to produce about 10 faces an hour.
"I like to have a lot of different tools and mediums," says Fertig, 35. "If you get too used to one tool, you make things that look more generic."
The artist started drawing when he was 3, he says, and never stopped. He studied art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he grew up.
Caricaturing isn't his only form. Fertig's landscapes and city scenes have been hung in galleries, including a 45-piece exhibition that ended this week in Pittsburgh.
"If I don't do that, I don't feel like a real artist," Fertig says. "Since I was a kid, I loved cartooning and I loved Hudson River School paintings -- landscapes.
Each, he says, has its positives. He's less restricted when he's working on his own time, free to paint whatever he wants. With the caricature, he often draws what a subject wants to see.
"At the old folks home, you don't draw every wrinkle," he says. "When I'm doing caricatures, I'm both an artist and an entertainer."