Everyday People

Connection is key for new Center for the Performing Arts director Sita Frederick.

Sita Frederick in theater

Hometown: Princeton, N.J.

Claim to Fame: New director of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Expertise: Frederick has a master’s degree in new media art and performance.

Hobbies: The mom of two loves cooking, yoga, hiking, and, of course, dancing.

Happening Valley
In February, the Center for the Performing Arts named Sita Frederick as its new director, taking over for George Trudeau, who retired last year. Frederick has spent her career as a performer, choreographer, and arts educator, most recently as director of community engagement at Lincoln Center. “This is a really exciting environment to come into from New York City,” says Frederick, noting the array of programs within the College of Arts and Architecture and the number of university galleries and arts-based student groups. “There’s a lot happening on campus.” 

Diverse Disposition
The Dominican and Canadian American dancer is trained in modern and contemporary, but deploys a wide range of dance forms—like Caribbean and Latin American—to create what she calls a “fusion” aesthetic in her art. Says Frederick: “That’s who I am as a person, too.” 

Making a Statement
Frederick co-founded a dance-theater company in 2003 called Areytos Performance Works, which examines principles of social justice; her portfolio includes other projects that explore cultural and social identity and intersectionality, including her time with the Urban Bush Women dance company. She plans to carry that work into her new role, identifying community concerns and joining those conversations through the arts. “The pandemic opened a portal for us to wrestle with the roots of where some of the strife is coming from,” she says, adding, “Generation Z cares about some of the most challenging issues.”

Exploring Connection
“I’m interested in how we’ve stayed connected during this time of quarantining,” she says, “but also how the arts are going to lead us forward in a post-COVID world.” This idea of reconnecting—both to each other and to the performing arts—is a priority for Frederick: How do you create a safe space for patrons while also engaging those who aren’t quite ready to return? 

Art as Medicine
Participating in the arts isn’t passive, says Frederick, who adds that a particularly reflective or meditative performance has the power not just to elevate a person’s well-being, but to heal as well.