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CATA celebrates inclusivity and 30th anniversary at annual gala and performance

“There are so many people who support CATA and the work that it does,” program Director Kelly Galvin told The Berkshire Edge. “It’s just a beautiful network of community. We wanted to express how we feel about the community through this ‘CATAVERSE’ performance.”

Lenox — Community Access to the Arts (CATA) held its 30th anniversary gala and performance, “CATAVERSE,” at Shakespeare & Company on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12.

The organization, founded in 1993 by dance therapist Sandy Newman, provides more than 2,200 arts workshops annually—including painting, dancing, acting, songwriting, drumming, and yoga—for over 1,000 children, teens, and adults with disabilities in Berkshire County and Columbia County, N.Y.

“CATAVERSE” included a variety of performances of music, arts, and dancing by CATA members on the stage of Shakespeare & Company.

The CATA Beat Drummers performed the songs “Djole” and “Lolo.” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
CATA’s ‘Moving Company performing “7 Seconds.” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

“The idea of the ‘CATAVERSE’ came up because we were all thinking about our community at CATA and the way it works,” program Director Kelly Galvin said in an interview before the performances. “The image that came up for all of us is of a universe that is always expanding, but goes infinitely inward and outward. That image really felt powerful to us in terms of how we’re envisioning the world that we’re trying to create at CATA and that we hope could be spread out into the wider world. It is an image of a universe that is beautiful and inclusive. Because in this universe, this ‘CATAVERSE,’ there is space for everyone in our community to be included. And also there is space for our CATA artists with disabilities to be leading the way in terms of their creativity and in terms of the way that we bring work and creativity to life. Those are the artists who are leading the way and taking the shape that our community takes.”

“Only Light Can Do That” as performed by The People’s Tap Dance Theater. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Galvin said that the “CATAVERSE’ is made up of the artists with disabilities and their caregivers, families, and support staff. “There are so many people who support CATA and the work that it does,” Galvin said. “It’s just a beautiful network of community. We wanted to express how we feel about the community through this ‘CATAVERSE’ performance.”

The CATA Juggling Connection performs “Intergalactic Bus Ride.” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
CATA Executive Director Margaret Keller speaking at the start of the “CATAVERSE” performance on Sunday, May 12. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

“These performances gives us an opportunity for people to step into the ‘CATAVERSE,’ which is a beautiful world that is inclusive and accessible,” CATA Executive Director Margaret Keller said. “This is a fantastically creative world that radiates in the sense of creativity and artistry. This whole weekend of performances is crucial to CATA’s mission in order to nurture and celebrate the creativity of CATA artists. These performances speaks to all sides of these dynamics by celebrating the creativity of people with disabilities and sharing their creativity with a wider community.”

American Sign Language Interpreter Jenn Vorce with CATA comedian Scott Thomas. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
CATA’s Shakespeare’s Players perform “Everything Under the Sun.” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Keller said that CATA has thrived for over 30 years because of community support.
“We would all not be here without this community that has supported us for 30 years and nurtured our mission and our artists,” Keller said. “It’s incredibly exciting to have this opportunity to gather with our community and to share with them the work that they all make possible.”

CATA’s Groove Collective performs “Groove it!” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
“Comparsa/Conga” performed by the CATA Beat Drummers. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

When asked about the organization she founded 30 years ago, Newman said that she is proud that CATA continues to grow. “I am very grateful that everything that I created continues to keep happening and grow,” Newman said. “I still do dance therapy, which is how I started CATA in the first place. I’m still very connected to CATA, and I like to see how it continues to go on.”

CATA founder Sandy Newman at the Sunday, May 12 “CATAVERSE” performance. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

At the end of the night, cast members of “CATAVERSE” performed the original song “Domino Laughter,” composed and written by CATA Serenaders and CATA artists from the BCArd Center for Development and the BCArc Nu-Opps Brain Injury Program. The song is a summation of CATA artist’s experiences with the organization and optimism for the future:

You can take a bus
A bus called anywhere
Wishing you were here
Earth is my world

You can dream out loud
Friends are all nearby
And the cows are here
Earth is my world

I came through some things
I never thought I could come through
Now I’m swimming in cool water
and I hear domino laughter

You can paint yellow, red
In the sun it’s nice
With nothing holding you back
Where we live

I came through some things
I never thought I could come through
Now I’m swimming in cool water
and I hear domino laughter
Now I’m swimming in cool water
and I know what comes after

The final performance of the night on May 12, “Domino Laughter.” Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Visit CATA’s website for more information about the organization and its programs.

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