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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Community Access to the Arts, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Human Service Organizations, Human Services

Mission: Our mission is to nurture and celebrate the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts.  Our vision is of a world where difference can be a cause for celebration and creative energy can fuel both personal and community transformation.

Target demographics: people with disabilities

Programs: visual and performing arts workshops

Community Stories

39 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CATA is a leader organization; its mission is embodied (embedded) in every interaction and activity I've witnessed between participants and their community. Core values of dignity, warmth and respect drive their work and their vision for artistic achievement. They strive to break down stigma and create community in which everyone is welcome; everyone's participation is seen as important and is celebrated. CATA is innovative and invigorating.. whether you're just there to watch, or to join in.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I first learned about CATA when I attended its annual Gala. The Gala has displays of CATA participant visual arts, but it offers as well the performances by many CATA participants in theater, dance, music and other performing arts. It is a spectacularly joyous event. The CATA artists convey clearly their pleasure in their art forms and their ability to share their art with the audience. We were completely emotionally engaged.

Since then we have attended many Galas, and other performance opportunities. I had been privileged to join in a workshop painting clay pots. I may have no artistic ability, but CATA artists in the room surely did. One was kind enough to mentor me in the effort, earning my gratitude and respect which she richly deserved. And we have had the opportunity to meet some of the CATA participants and hear from them what CATA meant to them.

CATA affords an astonishing array of opportunities for adults who may have few or no other options for artistic expression and whose abilities may otherwise be underdeveloped and simply overlooked. It is an organization that clearly enhances, and even changes, lives and makes so clear that ability to create and flourish in the arts exists in all of us.

Sandy Baron

Anni C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My sister Cathy Crofut has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. She is a talented visual artist, and has built a small business for herself selling her cards with her paintings on them. CATA has nurtured Cathy on so many levels; by providing her with opportunities to paint and to show her work, by offering her tremendous emotional and professional support as an artist, and by encouraging her to continue to pursue the irreplaceable outlet that is art in her life. Her flair for color is a metaphor for all that CATA has given her, and therefore all of us - her family, her staff and house workers, her friends, and our broader community.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We have been supporters of CATA for about four years. We have been impressed with the way we have been appreciated and welcomed into the CATA community. The staff are the most warm, loving, caring people we have ever met. We are sponsoring some the members of the community and have been invited to watch them in their classes. We have been able to see first hand how our contributions have helped others.

They have the BEST benefit in the Berkshires because it includes so many of the CATA recipients. It really makes you feel there are no limits to what everyone can accomplish if given the opportunity.

I ( Steffie) attended a workshop this summer with volunteers and members of the CATA community. We made a felt mural which will hang in a public location in GT. Barrington. The spirit of the whole team was so high and happy. I was teamed up with a woman named Betsy. It really made me feel so good to be able to work with Betsy and to get to know her and other participants.

We also attended a Jacob's Pillow show and there were many CATA members there. The spirit and inclusion of everyone is contagious. Thank goodness for CATA!!

Stephanie and Bob Gittleman

Board Member

Rating: 5

CATA is a well managed, effective organization dedicated to bringing the world of the arts to mentally challenged members of the Berkshires community. From creative writing and painting to dance and theater (yes, even Shakespeare), CATA is dedicated to participation and inclusion. Their annual showcase, a must-attend event, offers a sample of the unique talents of CATA artists. Awestruck audiences, regularly shed joyful tears after witnessing this special event. I know.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering in the CATA Direct workshops for a few years now, and it is the highlight of my week. There is such a sense of community as people of every ability gather around the workshop tables. Mostly, we have great days where we sing, laugh and tease one another, while creating beautiful crafts and works of art to share with the world. Once in awhile we have moments of tension that need to be worked through, and we do that with grace, compassion and true respect for one another.
CATA levels the playing field for all of us; in workshops, we are all learning new skills which may be easy or difficult for us. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from CATA as I have brought to the table, if not more.
I absolutely love being involved with this organization, and can only sing it's praises!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience with CATA is mostly as a volunteer. I had the privilege of working with CATA direct for 1 years. My community members that I brought to Cata were looking forward all week to their workshop, and did and still does consider this the best part of their week.
They learned felting, jewelry making etc.
Most wonderful though were the art classes. Having amazing artists as teachers who were able to discover and magnify their talents.
I love their work, and have quite a collection of their stunning oil paintings.

Grow and prosper CATA.

Board Member

Rating: 5

For almost 8 years I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for Community Access to the Arts. What I give of myself is so small in comparison to what I have received from this organization. The participants and the joy they bring to others through their art is so very heartwarming and important!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was lucky enough to intern at CATA for almost a full school year and witness the immense positive impact CATA programs have on all people involved. It only takes stepping into the office to feel welcomed and included, and to me this was the most special part of being in the CATA family - seeing people of all ability levels learn from each other, nurture each other and be nurtured. CATA builds a community that truly embodies its mission and does not turn its back on anyone. There are amazing workshops, teachers and a spirit that inspires creativity and appreciation for all things that are art. The kind of support found here is unlike that of any other non-profit, because it extends past the hours of CATA programs - the people here really love the work that they do and the people that they work for and with - and it shows. The artists with disabilities are valued members of the CATA team and treated with real respect. For me, it was really the first time I saw people with disabilities being treated as capable adults rather than children. One class I was in, I remember one of the artists saying, "I wish the rest of the world treated me like a person too." Really opened my eyes. What CATA does, at the heart of it, is simple - values individuals who aren't usually taken seriously by the rest of our society. What a beautiful job they do! Incredible environment, stunning art and writing and some of the kindest, most interesting people you'll meet. Everyone involved in this important work grows from the experience.

Mitch3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CATA's workshops at Blue Q continue to be amazing. We employ a staff of fifteen people through Berkshire County ARC, and we've learned through CATA everyone of them's a true artist in some manner. CATA's programming is creative and life changing, with wide-ranging benefits to our community at large.

CATA is also SO capably run, by a lean, resourceful, crazy-talented team that makes every dollar count!!

One of the most important arts orgs on the local map!!!

Go CATA!!!!!!

RichPetrino

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Community Access to the Arts has, over the years, provided an inspiring and enduring model to everyone who has come in contact with its artists, programs, staff, and volunteers, about what it means to be a caring and loving community. This community is built upon the belief that every person is precious and capable, regardless of circumstance. Imagine what our world would look like if there were a CATA in every community on the planet.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the great privilege of "inadvertently" volunteering at a fiber arts workshop for CATA in the summer of 2014. The context of my visit was to meet several CATA staff members for the first time as I learned more about the organization. The environment was so infectiously positive, I found myself in a volunteer role without having planned to volunteer. I was truly impressed by the authentic relationships and deep respect that existed between the community artists, volunteers, and staff at the workshop. It was clear to me that CATA was serving an important need in the community. I look forward to continuing to be involved with CATA as time progresses.

Megan76

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Community Access to the Arts is an extraordinarily focused organization that provides arts experiences for people with disabilities throughout the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, a largely rural region. They do so using some of the best performing and visual artists in our community, thereby also helping support the creative economy here. And they incorporate able volunteers and participants so that any perceived difference is erased. Highly recommended.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been involved with CATA for over 20 years, and in all my experience with non-profits I've rarely seen anything that compares in terms of faith to its mission, bang for the dollars raised, and sheer joy of involvement for everyone involved. There aren't enough check-boxes to describe my connection to this magical organization--I've been a board member, board president, a faculty member, an audience member, a parent of a participating dancer and a volunteer, to name a few hats. Always true to the guiding star of celebrating individuals and highlighting the common humanity that unites us all, CATA is also perpetually leading, innovating and gently pushing us all towards a more connected future.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

The daily work of this great organization brings happiness and purpose to so many living with disabilities or caring for people who do; its broader mission, to knit up communities across all perceived divides, is one with relevance for everyone. The organization maximizes every dollar and in addition to the social service and social change missions, also serves as a year-round employer for visual and performing artists.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a current Board member and former President of CATA, I can personally attest to the wonderful work performed by CATA in the Berkshires. Our workshops are attended by hundreds of disabled individuals throughout Berkshire County who consider CATA their home, their place of refuge, their venue where they be seen and heard. Our participants can't wait for summer to be over so they can go back to their workshops! Come to a workshop and see the difference being made in the lives of our participants - you will walk away with the best feeling in the world!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Knowing CATA's work from the community, we asked them to arrange a drumming class at our school for developmentally disabled and neurologically impaired youth and teens. The instructor, Vikki True, established an immediate rapport with the kids and by the end of the first class everyone in the group had found their rhythm and voice. The success of this 8-week program convinced our administrative and clinical staff to add other CATA programs to our after-school curriculum. A Painting class and Movement class met with equal success among our students. CATA does an excellent job at not only developing creative outreach programs but in finding the best people to lead them. Each of the instructors we worked with showed a great deal of understanding for our community members, formed immediate connections, and nurtured and encouraged each of their participants to take risks and engage in the activity.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering at CATA is one of the highlights of my week. I enjoy the artists/writers/students, volunteers and staff. The workshops are stress-free and fun, projects are well organized and the staff gives us specific instructions for each craft project or writing assignment including how to help the artists achieve success and satisfaction. Both the craft class and writing class in which I volunteer have become a caring team who thoroughly enjoy and support each other as we work together to complete our craft or writing projects. What unites us is greater than what divides us--disabilities become less obvious in the light of friendship.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

im 38y/o and i have disabilities and i have excepted my disabilities i had been in programs all of my life from age 13 in 1986 ro jan. 22 2000 and no one believed that i could ever be indapendent but been indapendent for 11 years now but as a adult with disabilities i cant understand how no one can help and adult with disabilities that are very talented artist with there art work i am a junk artist that takes art and makes the most amazing art out of junk but no one seems to want to help me and as a adult with disabilities thats not right and i have excepted my disabilities and cant change it but what is so wrong and frustrating that theres not enough help for adult artist with disabilities be successful and thats whats wrong

Comments ( 1 )

profile

CATA 04/28/2011

Community Access to the Arts fully understands the nature of the artist's concerns but would like to point out that this is an individual who has no contact/ experience or affiliation with our organization; we are based in Massachusetts, he is from Colorado. His experiences are entirely separate from CATA and not a reflection of our work. We regret that he has encountered such a struggle and have emailed him some ideas and suggestions along with good wishes for his pursuits.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a faculty artist with CATA. I give workshops using poetry as a guide to encourage the participants to express themselves as their self-knowledge and memories are stimulated. I have seen their self-esteem grow. The participants in my workshops, through their CATA experiences, support and love each other despite the differences in the types and levels of their disabilities. They love CATA. They are respected in their CATA classes and in their interactions with each other, faculty and staff. The mother of one of the participants said to me, with tears in her eyes, that she'd never imagined that her son would be able to reach his potential. But he has. David is a wonder.
I am extremely proud to be a part of CATA. The work is joyful. The work is rewarding. The work gives me, certainly, as much as I give.

Donor

Rating: 5

Few organizations are as inspired and compassionate as Community Access to the Arts. Its egalitarian approach to all human beings is a model that could be followed every person and organization.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I went to my first class at CATA –that’s how we call it - because my friends invited me. I was new in town. My first class was music and singing. But there were more. We stretched and exercised too. I am non verbal, but it didn’t matter. I could play instruments and I could learn the songs, sing them in my head. I made many friends there.
My second class was dancing. Everybody could participate, dancing with their hands and arms only, or with the whole body. I had a friend and helper with me and I had a lot of fun.
I like to write poetry and I found out that I could read my poems to everyone who wanted to lesten to it. And everybody wanted to. I started going to creative writing classes.
At the show people with all abilities performed and it was great. If someone needed help, there were helpers and every participant could show their art, even if it was the art of smiling.
I moved away to another state but I still write my poems for the classes. I use the internet. I go back every year for the show and I see my best friends. I don’t go on the stage anymore but I watch with amazement how wonderful my friends are, performing theater, dancing, tap dancing, juggling, singing.
I am still part of CATA and I remember the first time I felt this way. It was the first time the staff talked to me. Not to my helper, but to me. I was new and they didn’t know my abilities but it didn’t matter because they knew I had abilities. They wanted me to be part of their community and they still want me to grow as an artist and that’s special and it makes me feel special
We are all special at CATA

Donor

Rating: 5

Our son is schizophrenic. The many workshops offered through CATA, has helped him thrive in so many ways we never thought possible. To say this unique community program has given him a purpose and allowed him to use his talents to showcase all the special qualities, creativity and abilities he possesses is an understatement. We only wish that CATA could serve as a pilot program all over the USA.
For over 30 years, we have experienced a multitude of private care facilities for our son. Thanks to CATA he is living independently and happier than he has ever been. Each day, CATA has him placed in a workshop where he uses his music background. TO say there is no way to express our gratitude is an understatement. We are indebted to Sandra Newman and CATA forever.

Donor

Rating: 4

CATA's mission is to serve men and women with special needs. They do this by teaching students how to participate in the performing arts: dance, theatre, music, and, in addition, the creation of art through painting and crafts (weaving, sewing, etc.) I have been thrilled and moved by many of their performances, and I have bought works of art from the artists in the group. The students' imagination and skills are limitless under the care of fine teachers from the community, i.e. Great Barrington, MA and surrounding towns in the Berkshire Mountains. Through the inspired support of teachers and Board Members, CATA has enriched students and therefore their families and friends over many years. My life is greatly enriched from the sense of possibility inherent in being involved with CATA. I will support them forever.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was introduced to this charity via a yearly performance to showcase their work about 10 years ago. I was immediately taken and went on to find out more about them. Shortly thereafter, I joined their Board of Directors for about 8 years.

CATA's work is amazing! It brings together so many groups of people and truly breaks down barriers. Sandy Newman and Dawn Lane are two of the most dedicated individuals I have ever met. Their spirit lives in everything about CATA.

CATA is about community, respect for all, and the idea that we are all artists.

Donor

Rating: 5

This organization serves its client base so beautifully and so thoroughly, it's difficult to praise them highly enough. In addition, the work that they and their clients do gives so much back to the communities of the area, enriching the lives of everyone who comes in contact with the results of CATA's programs.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a physical therapist I have worked with people with disabilities and handicaps of all types over my 30+ years in the profession. I have seen first hand the stigmas and barriers that have been put up. I have seen the isolation and the loneliness, the desire to contribute and interact and I have seen over the years the institutions where they have been placed, separated from the mainstream, lives without a purpose. It is heart breaking. I have seen and spoken to foreign visitors who have witnessed CATA. They cry -wishing that their loved ones would have such an opportunity to shine as CATA gives to those in its programs. CATA is an amazing organization. The concept of art in everyone is absolutely & profoundly wonderful, beautiful and TRUE! CATA has brought this to our community in a brilliant and powerful way so everyone can enjoy it. The poetry is profound, the theater, the dance, the crafts and the paintings are just the beginning of the magic that is shared with the community. Everyone has a feeling or emotion to express, and CATA gives people that chance. Participants are empowered and admired and revered - they shine brightly - they have a purpose and our community looks forward to experiencing the depth and emotion that Sandy Newman and her CATA organization is able to bring to us. It is a gift. There is no isolation or stigma here- there is acceptance and admiration. There is appreciation for the art of another, one who otherwise may have been trapped beneath their silence not because they didn't have something to share.... but because no one gave them the opportunity. Ahhh what a wonderful thing CATA has done - it has given opportunity for expression to one and all. Smiles * music* art *tears * dance* purpose * joy *emotion *art drama* poetry *insight * song *music * story telling *art *theater* crafting* friendship *painting* building* sharing* loving *feeling *community* art. What CATA has created for this community is something that is difficult to describe - it must be seen- felt- touched- experienced.

Donor

Rating: 5

Have seen CATA workshops 1st hand. It's truely amazing to see the variety of "art" talents the clients have with their vast creativeness in everything they create. Have attended many annual performances. Each is unique and they are very moving experences to see and participate with. Have seen various Art work displayed locally, Shakespeare & Co, Berkshire Bank, Triplex. Sandy Newman had a vision and helped make a world of difference right here in our back yard for many, many people in Berkshire County. There is a smile on my face everytime I see or hear about a CATA event, see a CATA participant's Artwork or hear about the great work that Sandy Newman has brought to us!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I'm a certified yoga teacher who has worked with people with special needs for over 10 years and have never worked with an organization that's so dedicated and professional yet warm and fun. Everyone involved - from the founder (Sandy Newman) and the artistic director (Dawn Lane) to all the office staff and teaching artists are committed to make each experience productive and fulfilling for each participant while providing a supportive environment for all the staff. As a teacher, my ideas are always welcomed and that the office door is always open to me. More importantly, I've seen the participants, whose conditions and abilities cover a huge range, increase their confidence, develop their own creative voice, strengthen their bodies and improve coordination and social skills. I have witnessed participants grown in mind, body and spirit - you can tell they look forward to their classes - they arrive happy and excited and leave feeling rewarded and relaxed.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CATA is an important pillar of our community that reaches out and helps some of the neediest and most gifted members of our community. They are creative, resourceful and extremely talented

Board Member

Rating: 5

I always look forward to the month of May, when CATA produces its annual performance by its participants, and in particular, I love to bring friends who have never witnessed the fabulous work that CATA does.....singing, dancing, comedy, vignettes of Shakspeare's plays.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Creativity should never be lost and at CATA people with disabilities explore their abilities and express their talents with joy and real skill. There's no failure possible here and the successes are real

Donor

Rating: 5

The first time I went to a CATA annual performance I was hooked. To experience this joy-filled yet poignant series of pieces including dance, singing, juggling and theatre was powerful. The dedication of the participants and their mentors was and continues to be, many years later, inspiring. After several years of being a supporter I started working on CATA's annual fundraising gala and could not be more proud to be part of this vital organization.

Donor

Rating: 5

CATA is an amazing organization in our community. The mission of CATA is to integrate individuals with disabilities into the community through the arts... and CATA does a superb job at meeting their mission through a very dedicated and talented staff and group of volunteers. They provide dozens of opportunities for the developmentally disabled to express themselves through art, drama, dance, etc. providing a creative and very loving environment in which these individuals can grow and become so much more than they could ever have imagined. I moved to this area several years ago and was looking for something meaningful to do with my time. I discovered CATA and met with their staff and was so impressed with the organization and the professional and yet, very personal and caring way in which it was run. I began to volunteer with one of the art classes and have found it to be incredibly rewarding and inspirational. By providing this important service to the developmentally disabled in the Berkshires, CATA provides a lot of "heart" to our entire community and gives us all much to be proud of!

Board Member

Rating: 5

CATA is one of the leading lights in the culture of the Berkshires -- an organization which blends the area's commitment to the Arts with an equally strong emphasis on helping those whose talents are not so easily seen or expressed. It is an organization guided by those who masterfully husband every possible resource ... both human and financial ... to the benefit of the organization's client base. The Board is as hand's-on as it is possible to be without interfering with the most excellent and highly professional staff. It is one of the finest not-for-profits in our County, and I am honored to be associated as a supporter.

Board Member

Rating: 5

CATA is an incredible organization building community within the Berkshires using art as the vehicle to bring people with and without disabilities together. The work that CATA does is inspirational, ground-breaking, heart-wrenching, and very, very good. CATA is a model organization and is ultimately a leader in this small field in the United States and across the world. I am proud to contribute to such an organization as a Board Member, a community member, and even as a participant. Cheers to CATA!

Board Member

Rating: 5

In 2007 I moved to Great Barrington and wanted to do something to contribute to the community. a friend told me that Community Access to the Arts provided an invaluable service to adults with disabilities by providing an outlet to express their creativity through the visual and performing arts. She also said that the director, staff and board were an incredible group of talented and committed people. I signed on as a volunteer in the program called CATA Direct which is basically a crafts cooperative. The clients create crafts which are sold in the community. I had never worked with people with disabilities before. Working with these people gave me a new appreciation for the limitations I had set in my own mind for what people with disabilities could do. It shattered many preconceived notions that I held. I formed relationships with people whose differences I learned to value and respect. I experienced the respect and compassion they had for each other. I get much more than I give for my work with this group. Also, there is so much appreciation and supportin the community for this organization, fueled by the amzing work of Sandy Newman, the executive director. Businesses are happy to support our work by carrying our products in their businesses. There is a great deal of support as well for our fundraising efforts. In 2008, I was asked to join the board and was honored to accept. As a board member I help plan fund-rasing activites, decide on various staff and budgetig issues, etc.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As Treasurer of 17 year old CATA, I am exposed to the most caring and responsible people on the Board, staff, and teachers. But what impacted me most was participating in a circus, where participants in CATA' programs and people from the community preformed side by side. I was an elephant along with 4 other elephants who were part of CATA's workshops. I felt such an incredible bond with people whom I had hardly acknowledged before. From my experience, I went on to become a Caring Clown, "Dr. Flowers" visiting hospitals to bring a little cheer to others.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I find CATA's work to be very inspirational. To see the joy on the faces of their clients is an uplifting experience and I thorougly enjoy their ability to enhance the lives of these great young people with different abilities.