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.