GREAT BARRINGTON -- The founder of Community Access to the Arts, a nationally known nonprofit that provides opportunities for those with disabilities to participate in arts programs, has stepped down from that organization.
Sandra Newman, who founded CATA in 1993, will be replaced by Margaret Keller, according to an announcement from John Whalan, president of the CATA board of directors.
Keller’s first day was Monday.
"We are especially grateful to Sandy for her foresight in initiating the transition to new leadership in a manner that allows her to play a vital role in the selection and mentoring of her successor," said Whalan.
Newman plans to stay on for at least the next few months to assist in the transition. But she said on Monday that she has been thinking about her successor for several years.
"I actually wrote a succession plan several years ago," she said. "I started focusing on it the last couple of years."
Newman undertook these steps because CATA is really her creation. Twenty-one years ago, she started with one class of 12 adult women from the Riverbrook residential complex in Stockbridge.
In that time, the organization has grown to offer more than 1,000 programs, employs more than 23 artists on a freelance basis, has an office of eight full- and part-time employees.
The programs include both visual arts and dance.
"I didn’t really project any of this," she said of the success of CATA. "I just kept doing it."
Both Newman and her unique organization have won local, regional and national awards for their efforts.
Keller said on Monday that the thoroughness and attention to detail displayed by Newman’s transition plan was one of the factors that attracted her to the position.
"CATA has a really strong structure," said Keller. "I am so impressed by the vibrancy of the mission.
"I am thrilled and overjoyed to be here, to work with Sandy," she said. "It’s very exciting. I’m very much looking forward to it."
Keller is a graduate of the University of Virginia and earned a master’s degree in English from Chicago University.
She has worked as Foundation Relations Manager at Bard College at Simon’s Rock for the past four years. Prior to that, she directed programs at the Chicago Humanities Fund. In 2002, she was named Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune.
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