Last week, I got together with my good friend, mentor, and endless source of inspiration, Cathy Weiss. Cathy and I met back in October at RJ Julia’s “Voices in the Bookstore” in Madison, Connecticut. Cathy has been running this monthly writers’ group for about a year, but this past Fall was my first time attending, as well as my first time reading my work out loud in a group setting. I was nervous—hands shaking, mouth dry, should-I-even-be-here nervous. Public speaking has always been my number one fear, but luckily for me, I ended up sitting beside the encouraging Cathy Weiss. She coaxed me on, and afterwards, she approached me with praise and invited me under her guiding wing.
My life hasn’t been the same since.
Through various projects, creative collaborations, and one-on-one afternoons spent together, I’ve grown to know Cathy on a deep level. She is an accomplished author, talented artist, experienced gerontologist, and most notably (in my opinion), an extremely giving and empathetic human being. At the core of every creative endeavor she pursues is altruism. Cathy is constantly finding ways to give back to the community and enrich the lives of others with the resources she has.
With degrees in both radiation physics and social work, spanning her nearly fifty-year career in health and social services, Cathy’s main focus is helping those who cannot advocate for themselves. She started out working with cancer patients in the 1970’s, and as she evolved, she discovered her passion for helping the elderly.
Cathy’s charitable work, however, has always spread above and beyond the boundaries of her work life. In 2015, Cathy donated one of her pieces of artwork to help raise funds to provide transportation for the elderly and people with disabilities. Through a campaign called “Art in Motion”, her painting was displayed on a CT transit bus, which helped raise money to subsidize fares for the "My Ride" program.
As Cathy transitioned into retirement, she has only become more creative and more driven in her charitable goals. As former Administrator and Director of Gerontology at Elim Park, she assisted in the planning and funding of Nelson Hall, a state of the art performance venue. She volunteered for a year on this project because she feels it is important for elders be a part of the community. She is passionate in her belief that older people should not be isolated nor cut off from community events. She believes they deserve easy access to art and culture, and so she worked hard and devoted a year of her time to connect them with top notch performances from members of the community. Always gravitating to the arts, she used her own creativity to design unique, one-of-a-kind programs to solve problems. She likes to take risks and thrives on doing what has never been done before.
This year is no exception.
Over the past twelve months, Cathy has been volunteering her time and talent to help bring a new, evidence-based program called “Opening Minds Through Art” to The Towers in New Haven, Connecticut. Although “Opening Minds Through Art” is a nation-wide program, The Towers is the first and only place in Connecticut to offer the program. Using art projects that inspire spontaneity, sensory stimulation, and a sense of purpose, “Opening Minds” has been shown to delay both the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Volunteers for the program go through a three-hour training workshop, where they learn about Alzheimer's, meet some of the residents, and create one of the art projects. After training, volunteers are invited back to give six one-on-one sessions to a resident at The Towers. These sessions help build a strong connection, foster a sense of community, and extract creativity, all of which can be life changing. (For more information on how to get involved, scroll to the bottom of this post).
Over the past ten years, Cathy has helped bring many exciting programs to The Towers, including a dance troupe with movements she designed for neuroplasticity, but she is most excited about “Opening Minds Through Art” because it is a program she could have only dreamed of back in the 1980’s. In the early years of her career as a gerontologist, assisted living homes were laden with stereotypes that brushed off residents’ memory loss problems as normal aspects of old age. Cathy has been fighting against these negative stereotypes since day one, and she is pleased to now support a program that empowers and enriches the lives of those with Alzheimer's.
As a way to thank Cathy for her ten years of volunteer work and her most recent support in bringing “Opening Minds Through Art” to New Haven, The Towers is dedicating their gallery in her name as The Catherine Weiss Gallery. With the capacity to display sixty paintings and hold three hundred people, the gallery will showcase all of the program’s current and future artwork. The Catherine Weiss Gallery dedication and opening reception for the program will be held on Sunday, February 9, 2020 from 2PM - 3:30PM (details below).
This year, Cathy is also an elected artist at the Mystic Museum of Art in Mystic, Connecticut and is one of six artists to be featured in an exhibit in The Schuster Gallery with six feet of wall space for her artwork. Staying true to her giving nature, Cathy is donating a hundred percent of her artwork’s proceeds to The Towers to help fund the art kits for the “Opening Minds” program. Her collection in the Schuster Gallery will be on display from February 2 to April 4, and her next piece will be on exhibit this Thursday, January 30 at 9 Water Street in Mystic, Connecticut (details below).
Cathy Weiss does not stop. She is a wellspring of creativity, seeing possibility in the smallest of places, shining light on the darkest of situations, and bringing life to the grandest of ideas. Her mission is “to create artistic events that help us all connect to each other”, and no doubt she has made these connections, and continues to do so over and over again. Through even her humblest of actions—a warm smile and a simple hello—she accomplished her mission by reaching out to me that first night in RJ Julia’s and fostering our friendship. Our love for writing brought us together, but it has been her dedication, generosity, and enthusiasm that has bonded us closer. I am forever inspired by the creative and charitable work of Cathy Weiss. She is a powerhouse in the world of creating art and enhancing lives.
Opening Minds Through Art
The Towers at Tower Lane
18 Tower Lane, New Haven, CT 06519
To learn more or get involved, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah Moskowitz
Phone: (203)772-1816, ext. 410
The Catherine Weiss Gallery at Tower One
Gallery Dedication and Opening Reception of “Opening Minds Through Art”
Sunday February 9, 2020
2:00pm - 3:30 pm
18 Tower Lane, New Haven, CT 06519
Rsvp Nicole Merritt, Executive coordinator
Phone: 203 772 1816 ext 180
Mystic Museum of Art
9 Water St, Mystic, CT
Cathy’s next piece of art will be on exhibit Thursday, January 30.
Join her for a special elegant catered reception starting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 30.
Cathy’s art collection in the Schuster Gallery will be on display February 2 - April 4. She will also have additional merchandise in the museum store.