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Sep. 15th CATA’s 2015-2016 Program Year is Underway!

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 1.59.07 PMIMG_4234CATA’s new program year has launched! Workshops are now taking place in 32 settings across Berkshire County and in our own Studio in Great Barrington. Read below to get a glimpse of CATA’s day-to-day work through the eyes of an intern as she describes how creativity blooms in a place of mutual respect.

CATA artists and volunteers are featured here making our most popular items: dryer balls!

Reflections on CATAdirect Workshop by Heather Meehan, CATA intern

In the CATAdirect workshops, I often hear the participants being reminded to apply themselves, because they are “at work,” in a sense; they are receiving commission from CATA for the goods that they produce. These artists do not get a free pass because they are working with disabilities; rather, they are still held to a high standard of quality and production. These standards are flexible and vary according to the capabilities of each individual, but the common denominator is the respect that is expressed through the attitude of belief that they can and will work to the furthest extent of their capabilities.

Today in CATAdirect, a mixed group of Montessori students, community volunteers, and CATAdirect artists went about packaging items for sale in the CATAdirect store. Director of Marketing and Development Liana Toscanini gave the group an introduction to the world of retail marketing that covered quality control, pricing, and product presentation. The participants then chose stations where they would either be packaging holiday note card sets, gift tags or other merchandise. The CATA studio could have been the scene of any small workshop packaging items for the holidays, except that through these seemingly mundane, laborious tasks, incredible connections were being forged.

The Montessori students were asked to sit at a table with at least one person they didn’t know, so there would be a mixture and commingling of CATA artists and visitors. Each of the tasks had multiple stages, so each team had to collaborate on dividing labor, communicating, and completion. At the beginning of the workshops, the tables were littered with notecards, gift cards and magnets displaying the beautiful work of CATA artists. At the end of the workshop, after a flurry of cheerful conversation and activity, all of these items were packaged and prepared to be put on proud display in the CATAdirect boutique or ordered online.

The items sold through CATAdirect are the real deal; CATA artists are involved in every stage of the production, working in collaboration with community members. Everyone contributes according to their ability, but everyone contributes, period. Through the process of embarking on and completing tasks, conversations happen and connections emerge.

Some of the Montessori students had come to CATAdirect workshops in previous years, and there was an immediate recognition and greeting between them and some of the CATA artists. Coming to these workshops forms friendships between people who might not otherwise encounter each other, and friendships whose influence extends, with a powerful rippling effect, far beyond the scope of CATA. Before I started working with CATA and attending these workshops, I didn’t think that the town of Great Barrington had any population of people with disabilities. Now I encounter CATA artists and community volunteers on almost a daily basis, and it has opened my eyes to the broad-spread presence of disabilities within our society. Forging connections with people with disabilities on this collaborative basis raised my consciousness and dispelled many of the previous misconceptions I had held regarding disability.