Member Spotlight: Community Access to the Arts

Member Spotlight Community Access to the Arts-minRuthie wheels up to the canvas with a big smile. She just celebrated her 102nd birthday, and she’s about to start a new painting.

Thanks to workshops provided by Berkshire-based nonprofit and MNN member Community Access to the Arts (CATA), Ruthie began making art two years ago using an adaptive technique designed for people with significant physical disabilities. Since then, she’s finished twelve gorgeous paintings— and sold three at CATA art exhibits!

With the help of a laser pointer and the aid of a trained “tracker”— a person who acts as the artist’s hands— Ruthie and dozens of other CATA artists are able to create stunning works of art using “Artistic Realization Technologies” (A.R.T.). Developed by artist Tim Lefens, this innovative technique gives full creative control to people who aren’t able to hold or manipulate a paintbrush.

“A.R.T. offers a way for artists like Ruthie to communicate something that would otherwise go unsaid or unknown,” says Stefanie Weber, a CATA Faculty Artist who serves as Ruthie’s tracker.

After working with Stefanie for the past year, Ruthie has found a unique style that’s all her own.

“Do you want a big brush or a little brush?” asks Stefanie. She holds out a handful of brushes and Ruthie takes her time feeling each one. After she chooses, Ruthie uses a color wheel to show Stefanie exactly which shade she wants to use.

“How’s this?” Stefanie asks, mixing the paint together. Ruthie smiles, “Yeah!”

With a laser pointer around her wrist, Ruthie shows Stefanie where to put the brush on the canvas. She moves the laser up and over, then into the corner, revealing a bright stroke of blue paint.

Ruthie is one of 800 CATA artists who take part in CATA workshops each year in dozens of art forms, including theater, dance, yoga, juggling, creative writing, painting, and more. Through CATA’s dynamic workshops and public events, artists with disabilities tap into their potential, explore new talents, and share their creative perspectives with the wider community. CATA collaborates with day programs, residences, school, and nursing homes across the Berkshires and upstate New York to bring arts opportunities to as many people with disabilities as possible.

Before workshops started up again this year, Ruthie “couldn’t wait to get back to work.” Thanks to our community of supporters, she’s celebrating her 102nd birthday with a fresh canvas and a big creative spark!