Mission & History
Community Access to the Arts nurtures and celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual andperforming arts. Our programs take place in healthcare, therapeutic, eldercare, educational, community, and cultural settings. We serve 600 individuals with developmental, physical, emotional, and/or mental disabilities representing 30 different human service and educational organizations, as well as individuals living at home. Currently, the majority of our participants reside in Berkshire County, MA.
Dance therapist Sandra Newman founded CATA in 1993. At the time she was working as a clinician and dance therapist at the Columbia County Mental Health Association. She took her clients to art museums and cultural events and saw the power and importance of these experiences for everyone involved.
In 1993, she began collaborating with IS183 (formerly the Interlaken School of Art) and brought a group of women with developmental disabilities from the Riverbrook Residence to IS183 for a series of weaving workshops, and CATA was born. In 1997, CATA first received operational support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and founded its first performing arts company.
In 1998, CATA operations moved out of Sandra Newman’s home and into a studio/gallery in downtown Great Barrington. By 2000, CATA was offering 500 workshops annually. In 2003, CATA grew to a full-time staff of five. By 2006, CATA was offering 1,000 workshops annually. Currently, CATA provides services to 600 people with disabilities employing five full-time and two part-time staff members as well as 23 faculty artists.