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Mar. 28th Leadership Transition Underway at Community Access to the Arts

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Following a three-year transition process, Margaret Keller to succeed founding director Sandra Newman as leader of pre-eminent arts organization for adults with disabilities

Great Barrington, Mass. (Feb. 10, 2014) – Following a three-year transition and planning process, Sandra Newman will retire from her longtime role as executive director of Community Access to the Arts, and her successor has been named.

Margaret Keller, a Lenox resident, brings 15 years of experience in nonprofits, most recently as foundation relations manager at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Prior to that, she directed programs at the Chicago Humanities Festival, working closely with the city’s most prominent cultural organizations. In 2002, she was named a Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune. She takes over leadership of CATA on Monday, February 10.

Newman will assume the title of founding director and will continue to serve as an ambassador to the organization she founded, bringing the visual and performing arts to people with disabilities throughout the community.

“We are especially grateful to Sandy for her foresight in initiating the transition to new leadership, in a manner that allows her to play a vital role in the selection and mentoring of her successor,” said John J. Whalan, president of CATA’s board of directors. “Sandy has a history of investing in the aspirations and outcome of others, and is particularly suited to mentor and support Margaret.”

Newman established CATA in 1993, and the organization has grown to serve 600 adults throughout Berkshire County with programs in visual arts, dance and public performance.

Under Newman’s leadership CATA was recognized through the region and state for her work. Last year CATA received The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s 2013 Commonwealth Award.

Said Newman, “I am so excited to welcome Margaret, and to have a dynamic and vibrant new leader holding the essence of CATA’s mission and vision into the future, and maintaining our creative approach to enhancing the lives of people we serve.”

Keller added, “Sandy’s vision and leadership have nurtured CATA over its 20-year history and made it one of the most innovative organizations in our community—a jewel of the Berkshires. I am tremendously excited to uphold her legacy, and to bring my own talents to bear so that CATA can continue its trailblazing work.”

Community Access to the Arts nurtures and celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts. For information visit communityaccesstothearts.org

Mar. 26th Call for Sponsors!

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CATA’s Performing artists are now in rehearsal for CATAtude, our annual performance on May 17 & 18 at Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse.

This joyful showcase performance is the main way CATA’s work is shared with 700 members of our community. It’s the highlight of the year for our performers with disabilities, our faculty and our supporters, made possible by underwriting from local businesses and individuals like you.

If you would like to help us shine a light on the ABILITIES of our artists and help inspire others to support our work, please consider sponsoring the performance at one of these levels: $1,000, $2,5000, or $5,000. Click Here for more information.

Our sponsors recieve free tickets to the gala (including cocktails, show, dinner & dancing), and prominent acknowledgement in our program, posters, banners, eblasts, website, Facebook, and select advertising. And, of course, our enormous gratitude for helping to make it all possible.

We also have advertising opportunities in our program. Click Here for more information.

If you have any questions or need more information, please call Liana at (413) 528-5485.

Mar. 5th CATA Market Bags!

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The Great Barrington plastic bag ban took effect on March 1st. We hope the elimination of single-use plastic bags will spur an active market for reusable shopping bags like our signature straw tote designed to carry heavyweight items such as canned goods, melons and gallons of water.

CATA’s sturdy straw tote is adorned with fabric garland handmade by artists with disabilities who earn commission on every bag sold. “It’s the perfect market bag,” says CATA volunteer Maria Sirois, “because it’s large, strong and expands without ripping.” The collection includes short handled and long handled natural straw bags decorated in a variety of garland colors.

To purchase a CATA Market Bag stop by the CATA boutique at 40 Rail Road Street in Great Barrington or Click Here to purchase online!

Dec. 17th Introducing Ruthie Seliktar!

Ruthie & Stefanie

This month, volunteer Claudia Ricci, interviews Ruthie Seliktar (pictured on right with CATA faculty Stefanie Weber), an artist with CATA for around 2 years. Claudia, a professional writer, prize-winning reporter and professor, talks with Ruthie about her interest in dancing (especially Tap), why she loves the Berkshires, her knack for language, and more!

It’s Monday afternoon and Ruthie Seliktar is in a tap dance class in Great Barrington. Wearing wildly colorful leg warmers, Ruthie follows teacher, Stefanie Weber’s lead:

“Scuff-heel-toe; scuff-heel-toe; one-two-three; one-two-three; no pause in between.”

Ruthie smiles as she maneuvers across the floor doing the scuff-heel-toe. The teacher then introduces a four-beat rhythm to the class: “Scuff-heel-toe-heel; scuff-heel-toe-heel; one-two-three-four.

After class, Ruthie explains why she takes the tap dancing class. “I love it,” she says. “I like it because it’s rhythm and beat and it flows and it’s fun and colorful and really exciting.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to become a tap dancer.

“It’s really hard” Ruthie says. “You have to be coordinated.” Ruthie says it helped to watch some of the pros — like Fred Astaire — on video tape. She has also seen a number of live jazz and tap dance shows in New York City.

Tap dance is just one of many classes and workshops that Ruthie attends through CATA, Community Access to the Arts. In addition to the tap class, she is a member of CATA’s Moving Company, a mixed-ability dance company under the direction of choreographer and CATA’s Program & Artistic Director Dawn Lane. She works in CATAdirect on Tuesday, making a variety of craft items to sell to the public. On Wednesdays she attends ARTiculations, a visual art class, and on Thursday she takes part in a drumming workshop, writes highly creative poetry and prose in CATA’s Writer’s Workshop and enjoys yoga with CATA faculty Paula Boyajian.

“I love all of the classes at CATA,” Ruthie says. “I like the teachers and I like the fact that there is never any harsh judgement of your work.”

Petite and energetic, Ruthie smiles a lot and speaks English with a wonderful accent. Born in Israel, Ruthie came to the U.S. when she was 15 years old. She moved to Berkshire county about four years ago, after living for several years in Los Angeles.

“I love it here,” she says. “I love the green it’s calming and much more relaxing.”

She has a gift for languages, and speaks several: English, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, German, and Czech.

Ruthie makes a point of calling herself “Ruthie,” and not “Ruth.”

“I feel so good when people call me Ruthie,” she says. “I don’t know why they named me Ruth. When somebody calls me Ruthie, I know that they care.”

At CATA, everyone calls her Ruthie — because everyone cares so much!

Nov. 18th Meet Cathy Marden!

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This month, volunteer Claudia Ricci interviews CATA artist Cathy Marden. Claudia, a professional writer, prize-winning reporter and professor, talks with Cathy about her love for art, and what she enjoys most about CATA!

Cathy Marden sits at an art table on Friday morning, surrounded by fellow artists. She is busy putting the finishing touches on a watercolor of the Mount, writer Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Cathy – along with other members of CATA (Community Access to the Arts) — had visited The Mount a couple of weeks before, touring the house and gardens and taking away many excellent photos of the historic home.

Cathy’s painting features the house and one prominent feature — the Mount’s many windows. Cathy has done an excellent job portraying the look and the feel of the house. When she finishes her watercolor she gets lots of praise from art teacher Pat Hogan. She also gets a blank piece of paper from Pat, who asks Cathy to paint a second watercolor, this time, a scene from the garden.

Cathy has been coming to CATA in Great Barrington for so long that she can’t quite pinpoint the date (she guesses it’s at least 15 years.) Over those years, Cathy has been a CATA regular, and very enthusiastic about all of CATA’s programming.

“I love being in Pat’s art class on Friday,” she says. “We do a lot of things here, like painting flowers and making T shirts.”

Besides the painting class, Cathy takes Thursday’s music class, followed by a writing workshop, and finally CATA’s yoga class. She also participates in CATA Direct on Tuesday afternoons, when she joins with other CATA artists and volunteers to make items that are sold to raise money for the organization.

Some of Cathy’s art has been used in these cards. One image in particular is very meaningful for Cathy: a charcoal drawing she did of her beloved cat named Ziti. Unfortunately, Ziti developed cancer a couple of months ago and died. When that happened, Cathy was broken-hearted. But she got plenty of love and understanding from the folks at CATA. In particular she singles out CATA staff member Jeff Gagnon’s kindness.

“He was very nice to me after I lost Ziti,” she says. “He helps me out when I’m really upset.” Jeff also helps out with the art class and several other CATA classes, frequently working one on one with the artists offering them encouragement and suggestions.

Cathy is a big hugger. She hugs her teachers, and many of her fellow CATA artists as well as volunteers. She is always ready with her delightful smile, and a rollicking laugh that is infectious.

When asked who her favorite people at CATA, she has a long list that includes several members of the office staff and many teachers.

A native of Long Island, Cathy moved to Great Barrington after attending the Kolbourne School, near Southfield. She left the school after it closed.

Today she lives with two roommates — and a new cat named Patches — in an apartment on West Avenue in Great Barrington. Cathy also has a job, at a company called Berkshire Meadows, and organization in Housatonic that caters to children with disabilities. Cathy’s duties there include house cleaning and working in the kitchen.

Art class is over for the day, so Cathy offers to give a brief tour of the CATA office, where many handcrafted items are for sale. She points to beautiful beaded necklaces and bracelets, and colorful scarves, some of which Cathy helped to adorn with beads. There are also baskets with colorful cloth ruffles, many greeting cards, luggage tags, and one of the biggest sellers: dryer balls. Made from tennis balls, the dryer balls are popular because they keep clothes in motion, thereby reducing the amount of dryer time needed.

Cathy smiles as she surveys all the items that CATA has for sale. She is proud of all the work that she contributes to make these items. Her smile says it best: there is no doubt in the world that Cathy’s life is enriched in so many ways by participating in CATA.

Nov. 12th Fall Newsletter

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A PDF of CATA’s latest newsletter is now available online! The current issue of the CATAlog features the latest CATA news, an artist interview, plenty of photographs, and more!

To download the CATAlog Click Here!

Join our mailing list to receive the CATAlog and other great CATA updates at home in your mailbox!

Sep. 25th North Adams Transcript Reports on CATA Art Show

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North Adams Transcript reporter Edward Damon wrote an article about CATA’s Art on Tour reception at the Williamstown Youth Center last week. The art show featured a collection of new Artistic Realization Technologies (A.R.T.) paintings by CATA artists with severe physical limitations.

CATA artist Eric Schumann had this to say, “The thing about CATA is that it’s a one-of-a-kind place, nowhere else is there a place like CATA that I know of. I love it.”

To read the full story, Click Here!

Aug. 22nd David Zahorian, Juggler & So Much More!

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This month, volunteer Claudia Ricci, interviews David Zahorian, an artist with CATA for 13 years. Claudia, a professional writer, prize-winning reporter and professor, talks with David about his love of art, poetry, Shakespeare & juggling, his hobbies & much more!

David Zahorian juggles many activities in his life.  And ironically, one of those activities just happens to be – juggling!

Three soft foam balls sit in front of him at the table. I ask him what is the trick to juggling.  “I don’t think there is trick,” he replies. “There’s a sequence, a pattern.”

He holds up one of the colorful balls: “There is one ball to start with, and you toss it from one hand to the other. Then you take two balls, and toss them so that each one lands in the opposite hand.” He demonstrates. “The third ball is hard at first, but actually it’s a lot harder to juggle two. If you get the feeling of doing two, then you can do three.” And so he demonstrates, tossing three balls into the air.

David has learned how to juggle at Community Access to the Arts, with a teacher named Roger. And that’s just one thing David has learned. In the 13 years he has been coming to CATA, he’s done yoga and written poetry and performed in a number of Shakespeare productions.  He also has played the part of author Shakespeare himself.

Working with art teacher Pat Hogan at CATA, David has produced lots of artwork over the years, in a variety of mediums including oil pastels, oil paints and colorful tissue paper. Some of his best artwork has been featured at CATA and also, more recently at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.

“I made a sunflower with tissue paper and it took a long time. But that’s the thing that makes it fun, you can go as fast or as slow as you like. When you take your time you are more in control of the outcome.”

Besides attending weekly workshops at CATA, David also works on Tuesday afternoons for CATA Direct, the arm of the organization that has artists and volunteers working side by side to produce jewelry, colorful cards and other objects for sale.

He also manages to hold down two other jobs: on Thursday mornings he does maintenance work at Simon’s Rock, and on Saturday evenings and during Great Barrington’s film festival each year, he works at the Triplex theater.

And then there are David’s other non-CATA activities – over the years, he’s taken pottery lessons and he has become very fond of sports, including swimming, hiking and biking. He is proud of the fact that he has learned how to fix his bike on his own, tuning the bike up and changing both front and back tires when they go flat.

When he reflects on what CATA means to him, David is very direct. He says that CATA “has made a difference in [my] life. I think it’s a supportive organization and I’ve enjoyed it.” Smiling, he adds: “It’s great that CATA is here. You don’t have CATA anywhere else in the world!”

Aug. 1st I Am a Part of Art is Still on View!

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Thanks to everyone (all 225 of you!!) who joined us at the opening reception of I Am a Part of Art at the Berkshire Museum last Thursday! It was a wonderful evening of great art & poetry. What a great way to celebrate the work of each CATA artist!

If you weren’t able to join us for the opening reception, be sure to visit the museum to see all of the great artwork. Although standard admission applies now through Labor Day, the other exhibitions on view are absolutely worth the cost of a visit!

Jul. 18th CATAdirect Sale!

CATAdirect Sale

When: Friday, July 26th from 10am-2pm
Where: CATA Studio/Gallery, 70 Railroad Street, Great Barrington, behind the Triplex Cinema

Shop for jewelry, cards, holiday items and more. All discontinued products are 50% off. All current products are 10% off.

In the CATAdirect Crafts Cooperative, artists with disabilities work with community volunteers to create beautiful jewelry, cards and gifts. When you purchase these products, you help support the program and create commissions for the artists. And, when you give someone a CATAdirect gift, you share CATA’s message of inclusion.