Performance Triptych.png

Jun. 1st Donor Spotlight: Joan & Jim Hunter

How did you first become aware of CATA?

Joan: I saw an early piece Dawn Lane [CATA Program & Artistic Director] created, working with a dancer in a wheelchair, at the archives at Jacob’s Pillow. I was moved to tears watching the piece. I didn’t see disability, I saw art. Then I came to my first CATA Gala, and it blew me away.

Jim: Joan was a special education teacher and a lover of dance. I was neither (laughs). But I came to the gala and was stunned by the performance. What struck me was that these are people –with hopes and aspirations, joy and sadness. Fundamentally, they are the same as you and me but people look at them differently and talk to them differently. At the performance, all those filters were removed.

What has led you to support CATA philanthropically?

Joan: As a former special education teacher, my radar is set to those who are different. What I love about CATA is that you touch the humanity that we are all part of. Too often, people don’t know what to do or say around people with disabilities. Do I get close? Do I say something? CATA helps people become comfortable with disability. There is an artist somewhere in all of us. You tap into that–and the artistry comes through. The fact that you use professional artists to work with this population –that dedication comes through, too. You’re saying, “this population deserves this.” And they do.

Jim: You set an example of how to work with people with disabilities.

Joan: Also, it makes a difference that on every level, I see an organization that is well-run. That makes me confident and comfortable sharing resources. You convey a clear sense of CATA’s mission and bring out the joy of the mission in all your materials.

What inspired your gift to help CATA grow its work in North County?

Joan: The opportunity to grow CATA beyond its initial borders was important to both Jim and me. We saw the quality of what you’re doing and wanted more people to benefit.

Jim: Quite simply, we had a desire to add more to the lives of people with disabilities in North County.

In a region with so many arts organizations and nonprofits, why does CATA matter?

Joan: CATA engages a population of people that aren’t usually the focus of the arts. These are people who deserve to be at the table. We all gain from this experience—the participants, their families and caregivers, and all of us as a community too. It’s a win-win-win.

Jim: I would ask other arts patrons—why do you support the arts in general? This population is deserving of everything the arts have to offer.

Joan: And people who come to CATA events see that. At the Clark last summer, I watched people walk into the room and their jaws dropped. They saw incredibly moving pieces that were beautifully framed and hung in ways that added to the beauty of each piece. If there was ever a time to feel you are doing something positive to serve mankind at the highest level, it’s now. CATA is an oasis of good work being done.

Apr. 11th CATA Springs Forward!

CATA’s circle continues to grow! Since the beginning of our program year in September, we have expanded programs to bring innovative arts opportunities to an ever-growing group of people with disabilities in our community. CATA now provides over 1,100 intensive, multi-week arts workshops to 670 people with disabilities, working with more than 40 program partners.  Thank you for supporting this vibrant work! Click to read more:

Dec. 31st Top 10 Reasons to Support CATA!

We are deeply grateful for the community support that sustains CATA’s vital programs. Our programs simply couldn’t happen without all of you. Why does your gift matter? Here are our Top Top Reasons to Give to CATA:

Top 10 reasons? How about 600! That’s how many people with disabilities CATA serves across Berkshire and Columbia County each year.

Because you celebrate the notion that the art-smart Berkshires are for everyone!

Because you help six Berkshire County school districts bring the arts to their classrooms for students with special needs.

Because you help us change people’s perceptions and definitions of disability, drawing attention to the ability—and the light—that shines from each of us.

Because you help people like David, Cathy, and Myles participate in highly specialized programs that unleash hidden talents.

Because you sustain CATA’s connection to 39 program partners and cultural settings across our community.

Because you support commissions for CATA artists. Since our beginnings, we’ve proudly written thousands of commission checks to CATA artists whose paintings and drawings have sold during art exhibits.

Because at CATA, you get two for one: you support artists with disabilities AND the faculty artists who teach them—all working artists in our community.

Because you know that everyone has a voice to share, a song to sing, and a story to tell!

Because we can’t CATA without YOU. Your donations underwrite more than 50% of CATA’s work, making possible essential subsidies and scholarships for people with limited financial capacity.

Dec. 20th Holiday Sharing: CATA Style!

Last week, CATA artists from across Berkshire County took turns performing for a crowd of 150 fellow artists, their caregivers, faculty and friends, giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how they are interpreting this year’s “Everyday People” theme in their workshops.

Our artists gave and the rest of us received.

In an hour’s time we witnessed yoga, improv, singing, dancing, ukulele, juggling and African drumming! It was an exuberant gathering: one that left us feeling lighter from the joy we shared together.

The Sharing was CATA in action—everyone coming together to celebrate creativity, to share work-in-progress, to encourage each person’s expression of themselves through the arts.


Left: CATA musicians share what they’ve learned in their debut semester of World Music.
Center: Meghan & Natasha play a song they’ve learned in CATA’s new ukulele workshop.
Right: Matt practices balance and control for The Juggling Connection.

Programs like the “Sharing” happen only because of YOU. Generous contributions from community members like you fund 1,000 arts workshops annually, serving 600 artists with disabilities right here in our community.

Please join us again by making a year-end gift. Gifts of all size make a difference! Thank you for taking a stand for community, inclusion, and creativity for all!

Oct. 27th CATA Launches 24th Program Year!

2016-2017 Workshop year begins across Berkshire County and now Columbia County, NY

Each September, a new program year begins at CATA–and with it, a new theme to inspire our faculty and CATA artists. In our workshops, we ask tough, creative questions and answer as human beings and artists. This year, we explore the theme Everyday People, asking:

  • Who are you every day?
  • What is your everyday?
  • How is your everyday different from any other human being’s?


No matter who we are, where we live, or what we look like, our everyday includes many of the same routines. In between all our similarities lie morsels of difference; these differences define us as unique beings. CATA artistry is the perfect vehicle to create together amidst our differences and to consider ourselves part of one whole.

In the months ahead, we look forward to sharing with you the inspiration and art that emerges from this year’s theme!

“different strokes for different folks.”
-Sly & Family Stone, Everyday People


Mar. 2nd New England Public Radio Recognizes CATA!

New England Public Radio’s Arts & Humanities Award for Outstanding Organization recognizes those who have made a positive impact on the arts and humanities and brings awareness to the critical role played by musicians, artists, dancers, writers, teachers and cultural institutions in western New England. CATA is the first Berkshire organization to receive this award. Please join us at the award ceremony in Holyoke on May 10th, 2016.


NEPR is excited to announce the recipients of the 2016 NEPR Arts & Humanities Awards! This year, the distinction goes to two very worth individuals, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Tracy Kidder, and the first Poet Laureate of Springfield Massachusetts, Maria Luisa Arroyo; and two outstanding organizations: Amherst Cinema, celebrating its 10th year as part of the Valley’s cultural landscape, and Community Access to the Arts of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts.

Recipients will be celebrated at the 8th Annual Arts & Humanities Awards Gala, May 10, 2016 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Mass. Nick Spitzer, host of American Routes will join the celebration, taking questions live on stage from our own Kari Njjiri, host of Jazz Safari. Music and entertainment reflective of this year’s recipients will round out the festive evening. Tickets ($75) will be available beginning soon at Proceeds support the programs and services of New England Public Radio.

The 2016 Recipients:

Amherst Cinema AudienceAmherst Cinema
Now celebrating its 10th year, Amherst Cinema is an independent, nonprofit arts center that presents first-run independent film and world cinema on four screens and offers HD productions from internationally known theater and dance companies. In addition, Amherst Cinema creates film series unique to the theater, hosts filmmakers at screenings of their works, and serves school children through its education program, See-Hear-Feel-Film. In 2015, Amherst Cinema screened programs in more than 20 languages and drew over 112,000 audience members from throughout western New England. And as one nominator pointed out, “the new vitality of the Amherst downtown is further testament to the magnet that Amherst Cinema has become for western New England’s arts community, and the power of the “creative economy.” For more information on Amherst Cinema, click here.
MLArroyo at July 2015 MFA graduation María Luisa Arroyo
Multilingual Puerto Rican poet and educator María Luisa Arroyo is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Springfield, Massachusetts. Many of Ms. Arroyo’s poems, published widely in journals such as CALYX, and in anthologies such as Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, negotiate the oftentimes hidden, ignored, or rationalized realities of childhood abuse and domestic violence. A 2004 Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Fellow, Ms. Arroyo had her first collection of poems, Gathering Words/Recogiendo Palabras, published by Bilingual Press (2008). Since 2004, Ms. Arroyo has facilitated community-based poetry workshops and readings regularly in partnership with the Springfield Public Libraries and has performed her work regionally and widely, including in Chicago, DC, Boston, and Puerto Rico. A proud product of Springfield Public Schools in an era when a well-rounded education automatically included the arts, Ms. Arroyo  went on to earn degrees at Colby (BA), Tufts (MA), and Harvard (ABD) in German language and literature; and in July 2015, she earned an MFA in creative writing at Pine Manor College. For more information on María Luisa Arroyo, click here.
JoanneCommunity Access to the Arts (CATA)
Now in its 23rd year, Community Access to the Arts (CATA) provides over 1,000 arts workshops annually to 600 individuals with disabilities across Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  With a mission to nurture and celebrate the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts, CATA draws the public into its vibrant work through performances and exhibits, shining a light on the ability within disability. CATA’s arts workshops and public events give individuals with disabilities the chance to share their voices and their perspectives on the world.

Through CATA, art becomes a vehicle for social change – a powerful means of creating community and affirming our common humanity. As one nominator put it, “CATA’s message, one of inclusivity, one that recognizes the talents and abilities of ‘the disabled’ and promotes and celebrates the artist and performer, resonates and reverberates in our western Massachusetts communities.”  For more information on CATA, click here.
TRACY KIDDER author pic (c) Gabriel CooneyTracy Kidder
From his home in western Massachusetts, Tracy Kidder writes books that invite their readers to take a journey with him. Whether that journey is traveling to Haiti with Dr. Paul Farmer, a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet in Mountains Beyond Mountains, or to Burundi where the incredible story of a young man named Deo begins in The Strength of What Remains, Kidder’s passionate and profound writings have inspired thousands of readers to think about the global issues that affect us all. Closer to home, his portrait of small-town life in Northampton, Massachusetts in Home Town, and the engaging peek into building a family home, from blueprint to the last coat of paint, invite readers to get close, to see the small, seemingly mundane, details of modern life in a new way. Winner of both The Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award, Kidder’s most recent book, Good Prose: The Art of Non-Fiction, was co-authored by his friend and editor of more than forty years, Richard Todd, and is an inspiring manifesto on what makes good writing. He is currently at work on a new book that will be released by Random House this fall. For more information on Tracy Kidder, click here.

Established by the New England Public Radio Foundation, Inc. in 2008, the New England Public Radio Arts and Humanities Award has been recognizing the rich and varied arts scene in the region for six years and counting. The award recognizes the contributions of local talent, and brings greater public awareness to the critical role played by musicians, artists, dancers, actors, writers and teachers in western New England.

For more information on the Arts & Humanities Award, please contact Vanessa Cerillo at or call 413-735-6605.Information about sponsoring our Arts & Humanities Awards Celebration

Past recipients of the Arts & Humanities Award:


Community Music School of Springfield

Andrew Lawrence

Karen Skolfield



Jane Yolen

The Performance Project/First Generation

Easthampton City Arts+



Michael Mucci

June Millington

Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Enchanted Circle



The Young@Heart Chorus

Josh Simpson

Gary Bernice



Peter Blanchette

Steve Hays

The Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford, CT

Aric Bieganek



Evelyn Harris

The Springfield Museums

Matthew Mitchell



Kevin Rhodes, Music Director, The Springfield Symphony Orchestra

Feb. 3rd CATA is Hiring!

CATA is Hiring!

Community Access to the Arts (CATA) seeks a full-time Development & Marketing Director to spearhead development and marketing efforts for this dynamic nonprofit organization.

Community Access to the Arts (CATA) seeks a full-time Development & Marketing Director to spearhead development and marketing efforts for this dynamic nonprofit organization.

Responsibilities: The Development & Marketing Director is responsible for developing all fundraising and marketing strategies to grow CATA’s base of philanthropic support. Reporting to and working closely with the Executive Director (ED), the Development & Marketing Director sets the organization’s strategic fundraising agenda to achieve and exceed revenue goals through the solicitation of individual, corporate, and foundation support. The Director also manages marketing and communication efforts to build awareness of CATA’s work among media, funders, and the community. Attendance at occasional evening and weekend events required.

Fundraising & Donor Stewardship

• Develop and execute an annual comprehensive fundraising plan, in collaboration with ED, with targeted goals, objectives, methods, quantifiable outcomes and timelines.

• Identify and secure financial support from individuals, foundations, and corporations in line with CATA’s funding needs.

• Actively steward and cultivate existing funders to maintain and develop relationships through correspondence, special invitations, and other means.

• Work closely with ED to develop major gift strategy and program.

• Set goals and metrics and monitor progress. Provide monthly/quarterly reports to ED and Board.

• Lead organization of special events, especially annual gala; solicit individual and corporate sponsors; work closely with gala committee to communicate targets and meet goals.

• Oversee relationships with foundations and other grantors: research, write, and track proposals to foundations; work with staff to create annual reports and provide documentation; schedule meetings.

• Manage the implementation of our eTapestry database and oversee staff responsible for data entry and gift processing

Marketing & Communication

• Define and execute comprehensive marketing plan that includes events, media relations, social media, website, newsletters, annual reports and branding.

• Create quality marketing materials that support development and marketing goals (brochures, annual reports, posters), growing positive awareness of the organization.

• Manage relationships with graphic designers and printers, overseeing the production and distribution of all print materials; create detailed schedules for printed materials to communicate deadlines to staff.

• Manage relationships with press and media; write/supervise targeted press releases, pitch stories, book ads.

• Oversee website and social media, supervising staff updates.

• Produce seasonal newsletters, leading staff in creating compelling content.

• Oversee marketing and product development of CATAdirect Crafts Cooperative, with collaboration from the CATAdirect Studio Manager.

• Represent CATA at community and networking events; research and coordinate speaking opportunities for ED and other strategies to increase organization’s public exposure.

Bachelor’s Degree with a minimum of seven years development/marketing work in nonprofit organization. Candidate must possess a strong ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment; to handle sensitive and confidential information with discretion; to work both independently and in collaboration with colleagues; to balance urgent short-term priorities with long-term planning and strategic thinking.

Required Skills:

Candidate will possess:

• Excellent written and oral communication skills

• Proven success in developing and delivering successful fundraising strategies

• Demonstrated ability to research and write successful grant proposals

• Strong interpersonal skills and ability to work with wide range of people

• Ability to prioritize, schedule, meet deadlines, and follow through on multiple tasks

• Knowledge of MS Office; Word, Excel, Outlook

• Familiarity with constituent management database (knowledge of eTapestry a plus)

Personal Characteristics:

• Strong project manager: You are able to juggle multiple tasks and to break down complex, long-term projects to stay on track, managing timelines and details, and delegating where needed.

• Invested in personal relationships: You have a positive attitude, are good-humored and outgoing and enjoy making connections with others to support CATA’s work.

• Highly organized, collaborative work style: You work successfully in a team, establishing common goals, performance measures, and guidelines. You are a hands-on “doer” in order to meet goals.

• Sharp strategic thinker: You solve problems, are not easily discouraged, and overcome challenges creatively and effectively, combining long-term planning and short-term tactics.

• Passion for CATA’s work: You believe in CATA’s mission and will be an impassioned advocate for our artists and our work in the community.

How To Apply:
Please send your resume in Word or pdf format along with a cover letter describing your interest in the position and your qualifications. Cover letters will be judged as writing samples; applications without one will not be considered. Send materials to No phone calls please. Community Access to the Arts is an equal opportunity employer.

Apply by:
February 29, 2016

Competitive salary, commensurate with background and experience. Excellent benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, IRA.

Nov. 17th CATA at TEDxBerkshires!

CATA at TEDxBerkshires!
On November 19th, 2015, CATA’s Executive Director, Margaret Keller, spoke at TEDxBerkshires at Kripalu along with an exciting panel of other Berkshire County doers and thinkers.

Watch Margaret’s TEDxTalk here!

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The annual TED Conference takes place in Long Beach, California, with simulcast in Palm Springs; TEDGlobal is held each year in Oxford, UK. TED’s media initiatives include, where new TEDTalks are posted daily, and the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as the ability for any TEDTalk to be translated by volunteers worldwide.

TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world are given the opportunity to put their wishes into action; TEDx, which offers individuals or groups a way to organize local, independent TED-like events around the world; and the TEDFellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to become part of the TED community and, with its help, amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

About TEDx
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxBerkshires, where x=independently organized TED event. At our TEDxBerkshires event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussions and connections. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

About TEDxBerkshires
TEDxBerkshires is a local, independently organized event that seeks to bring the exciting TED-like experience to the Berkshires by presenting top thinkers who are also amazing speakers.  Our goal is to bring powerful ideas to an audience that is every bit as interesting as the speakers.

Oct. 30th CATA Announces 2015-2016 Theme; WALLFLOWERS!

We are pleased to announce the theme for the 2015-2016 CATA program year; WALLFLOWERS. Each year CATA’s Artistic Director, Dawn Lane, conceives of a theme –which is both open to interpretation, yet suggestive–meant to inspire CATA’s artists, faculty and staff. It is serves as a common starting place, from which twists, turns, and detours lead to the creation of work that would not otherwise exist.

 • • •

A wallflower is historically defined as a someone who is shy, awkward; not seen or known. A newer definition suggests it is a person who sees everything, knows a lot, but does not a say word…someone who chooses to observe, instead of experience.

Both of these definitions call attention to human attributes we all possess. There are times we may want to be alone, or at least left alone: and there are times that we very much want and need to feel included.

CATA artists are not wallflowers but they do represent a population that can and does go unseen. The Wallflowers theme is an opportunity to explore poignant art-making that speaks to being part of and apart from, to being noticed and choosing to be or not be seen.  CATA faculty have all encountered CATA artists who appear introverted either by choice or due to their disability. We are committed to recognizing that their presence alone is their contribution, and by honoring that, we bring to the public an awareness that the process can be the product.

The annual theme is meant to evoke curiosity, creativity and encourage varied interpretations. Also note that the word wallflower is a compound word, lending itself to all kinds of visual possibilities! The intersection and division of the abstract and the literal is the uncharted territory of this years theme!

 • • •

I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone. Lord Byron

The limited circle is pure. Franz Kafka

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.