Berkshires Beat: CATA Artists on Display at Pittsfield Guido’s

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Touring art: Community Access to the Arts will exhibit at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield as part of ​CATA’s “Art on Tour” gallery series. The exhibit, featuring artwork created by Pittsfield-based CATA artists with disabilities, runs through Oct. 31, with a public reception on Friday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The curated exhibit includes a variety of stylistic expression and techniques in water-based media, such as watercolor, tempera and ink, and feature both abstract and representational work. All works in the exhibit are professionally matted and framed, and all pieces are for sale, with proceeds supporting commissions for individual artists. The exhibit is funded by October Mountain Financial Advisors, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and other supporters.

This exhibit is a part of CATA’s “Art on Tour” program, where original works of art created by CATA artists travels throughout the year to museums, galleries, community centers, and other venues in the Berkshire County. Community Access to the Arts nurtures and celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the visual and performing arts.

Building tolerance: Local community nonprofit Multicultural BRIDGE has launched the “Not in Our Berkshires” campaign, which aims to unify communities throughout the Berkshires to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. Part of on the national “Not in Our Town” movement, this campaign will engage Berkshire residents, businesses, town governments, schools, community organizations and others in an effort to educate, organize, and mobilize our communities to respond to — and prevent — incidents of hate and injustice. The Berkshires are believed to the first to launch a campaign on the county-wide level.

Even at this early stage, dozens of organizations and individuals within the county have pledged support or signed on to assist in the campaign. Supporting organizations to date include some members of BRIDGE Race Task Force, Senator Hinds, Greylock Together, Macedonia Baptist church, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire and Bard College at Simon’s Rock. The campaign unifies these groups with three ideas: a unified visible logo, pledge and shared values; a commitment to not be silent when ignorance, hate or intolerance arises; and a collaborative approach across the county.

Within those principles, each town or city can choose what the Not in the Berkshires action and engagement will be and it will be supported and amplified by the county-wide steering committee, said Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, founding director and CEO of Multicultural BRIDGE. Movies from the Not in Our Town documentary film collection, which chronicle community-wide responses to hate incidents from across the country, will also be screened across the county in the coming months as part of the campaign. The screenings will be followed by community conversations.

The campaign also urges Berkshire community members to sign a pledge card in support, which reads: “I commit to working together with my neighbors to create safer, more integrated communities for all residents in Berkshire County. I do not stay silent in the face of intolerance or hate based on race, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, ethnicity, country of origin, ability or any other factor. I work to acknowledge and heal all forms of hate, bigotry and bullying. I pledge to renew my commitment to this work every day.” Pledge cards are available at select community events and for download on the Multicultural BRIDGE website.

Adult learning: Registration for the free GED/HiSET exam preparation or to learn English as a second language (ESOL) will be held Tuesday, Sept. 19, and Thursday, Sept. 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center located at 141 North St. in Pittsfield. Advance registration is required at 413-499-9530. Classes will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 7:30 p.m. starting Oct. 3.

The Pittsfield Adult Learning Center has been offering free adult basic education and ESOL classes to individuals age 16 or older since 1976.  The Center also provides individualized attention, education and career advising, workplace readiness skills, and flexible hours through distance learning.

Cultured: Shakespeare & Company has announced its participation alongside The Mass Cultural Council and the Baker-Polito Administration’s EBT “Card to Culture,” the most comprehensive effort of its kind in the nation to open doors to arts and cultural experiences for low-income families. The EBT Card to Culture provides free or discounted admission to more than 100 nonprofit arts, history, and science venues across Massachusetts, from the Boston Children’s Museum and Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, to the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Cape Cod. In Berkshire County, other particpating venues include Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Pulse, Berkshire Theatre Group, Chesterwood, the Clark Art Institute, Hancock Shaker Village, Images Cinema, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Mass MoCA, Norman Rockwell Museum and The Mount.

State officials and cultural leaders formally launched the new program last week. Shakespeare & Company is committed to offering a $5 performance ticket to EBT Cardholders through this new program. The discounted tickets can now be reserved over the phone, online and in person at box office. Cardholders will be required to show card at the box office when picking up tickets, and processing fees will also be waived.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Transitional Assistance (DTA) are already promoting these cultural opportunities to the one in eight Massachusetts residents who are served by DTA. The approach has seen success at institutions that have employed it: Boston’s Museum of Science, for example, has seen participation in its EBT card discounts rise steadily from a few hundred to more than 13,000 visitors annually in less than five years. A full list of participating organizations is online.

For the girls: The Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts will host five Berkshire information and registration sessions for caregivers and their daughters, Sessions are scheduled for the following dates and times:

* Thursday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m., North Adams Public Library, 74 Church St., North Adams

* Wednesday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m., at the Dalton Free Library, 462 Main St., Dalton

* Wednesday, Oct. 4, 5 p.m., at the Sheffield Library, 48 Main St., Sheffield

* Thursday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m., at the Berkshire Athenaeum Central Library, 1 Wendell Ave, Pittsfield

* Wednesday, Oct. 11, 5:30 p.m. at the Becket Athenaeum Central Library, 3367 Main St., Becket

Girl Scout troops for girls in kindergarten through grade 12 are now forming. The membership fee is $35; financial aid is available. Mentoring opportunities are also available. Contact Ashley Batlle at 413-727-5742 or by email for more information.

Parade prep: The 73rd annual Pittsfield Halloween Parade will be held 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 on Tyler Street. Zombies, ghouls, goblins, superheroes, floats, marchers and more are wanted as planning for the Pittsfield Halloween Parade gets underway for this popular Pittsfield tradition.

School, community, and civic groups are welcome to participate in this popular event. Every unit will need to complete a General Entry Form, and those entering a float must also complete the Float Entry Form; all float entries must have a Halloween-related theme. The entry form and additional parade information is available through a link on the home page of the city’s website, The deadline for completed forms is Friday, Oct. 13.

There will be a float building seminar at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Room 203 at City Hall for those who are interested in or planning to have a float. Groups that would like to have a float in the parade must have a representative attend the meeting. For more information, call 413-499-9370.

All for one: The UNITY Program of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition is once again offering its popular and long-running Youth Leadership Program (YLP) and Teen Writing Workshop (TWW). All UNITY programs are free and open to young people ages 14-19 who attend school or live in northern Berkshire County. They are held at the nbCC offices at 61 Main St., North Adams, unless otherwise indicated. Transportation is available upon request. More information can be found on the website.

YLP engages teenagers in developing leadership skills through creative, youth-led community service projects. Activities that address communication skills, diversity, decision-making, and teambuilding are also central to the program. Participants can expect to make new friends in a fun, supportive environment, while working together to bring their vision of the community to a reality. The group will meet Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. beginning Oct. 3.

TWW brings together young writers of all levels and genres to develop their creative work with the guidance of two professional writers. In addition to participating in weekly writing sessions, students have the opportunity to publish in UNITY’s student journal and share their work in public readings. TWW will meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. beginning on Oct. 11.

UNITY staff will again be coordinating the Northern Berkshire Youth Collaborative, a group of youth development workers, mentors, educators, and community members with a vested interest in the youth of Northern Berkshire County. The group will begin meeting in October, and will discuss the focus of this years collaborative efforts.

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