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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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