After a seven-month long search, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State chose Sita Frederick as its new director on Feb. 8.
Frederick said the arts play an “incredible” role in community-building and bringing people together.
The former dancer, artistic director and educator will start her new role on March 15. George Trudeau, the center’s previous director, retired in July 2020.
Frederick was a performer with the ensemble Urban Bush Women, a dance-theater group that addresses inequality in the lives of Black women. She has also danced with the Arthur Aviles Typical Theater and Merian Soto Performance Practice and co-founded a dance theater company, Areytos Performance Works, “to create multidisciplinary community-based projects that explore themes of power, colonization, migration, race, gender and culture,” according to a press release from the College of Arts and Architecture.
Frederick’s background as an artist who advocates for social justice has carried over into her administrative positions in the education sector.
She has worked with the nonprofit Urban Arts Partnership as the program director for Everyday Arts for Special Education, a federally funded professional development program for New York City educators that coaches artists on how to teach and bring art to students with disabilities.
Most recently serving as the community engagement director at Lincoln Center in New York City, Frederick cemented her commitment to advocating for marginalized communities. She said she held this role from 2015-2020.
“Creativity [is] an incredible source of well-being in our communities,” Frederick said. “It encourages people to be healthy — to think and imagine beyond their current circumstances — which helps us dream into the future and change our reality.”
According to College of Arts and Architecture Dean B. Stephen Carpenter II, Frederick brings a wealth of experiences that will promote a culture of “anti-racism, anti-oppression and equity” to their leadership team.
“She'll underscore even further the role of the arts within our culture, within society, within the university, within the community,” Carpenter said. “And when people see value in something, it's a reflection on you doing your work well.”
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Frederick said theater and art have the power to discuss provoking topics through an entertaining medium that makes people feel safe in an environment discussing differences.
During the pandemic, Frederick said online spaces have revealed themselves to be a significant tool in helping to include people who are historically excluded.
“People who are medically fragile or can’t go out because they have medical conditions that make it not feasible for them are suddenly able to go to things because everything is on Zoom or YouTube,” Frederick said.
She said she is excited to seize the moment with livestreams and recordings to incorporate individuals with disabilities into the arts community.
Frederick also said she thinks the pandemic is an opportunity to embrace outdoor events.
“Festivals have always been a huge part of my love for the summertime,” Frederick said. “Arts festivals, concerts — many of us love those types of gathering to be able to be outside in fresh air and experience music, dance or theater.”
Frederick said she feels prepared to take the time, creativity and humor necessary to get people back into a space where they can enjoy artistic experiences together safely.
She said she is looking forward to learning about the Happy Valley communities and featuring arts experiences people will want to interact with.