It's not every day that children get to paint and draw all over the floor. But last weekend, 11-year-old Daniel Estrella got to do just that.
“I wish I can do this at home,” he said. “It’s so much better than video games. I feel like I'm on top of the world.”
His mother, Claudia Galindo, nodded with a smile.
On Saturday, children and their parents were invited to a free Family Fun Day at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in West Miami-Dade, where visitors got to create life-sized art.
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The festivities were led by Zot Artz, a national program that opens up new worlds of inclusive art-making.
Special attachments hooked on to wheelchairs served as giant paintbrushes and stamps. A wide variety of art-making adaptive tools were available for children with cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and other disabilities.
"It gets to open their minds, hearts and eyes to different things," said Galindo, 39.
Dwayne Szot, the inventor of tools and founder of the program, said that the art program helps children develop motor skills, concentration, social interaction and self esteem.
"That is beautiful; we're coming a long way," Szot said. "The biggest compliment to me is when everyone is creating together. All means all. Inclusion is good for everyone."
Szot travels 20 to 30 times a year from Michigan across the country to host Family Fun Days.
Children of all abilities and ages stamped, drew, and made their mark on the massive sheet of paper on the museum's floor. Wheelchairs with stamps and attached bubble blowers circled the lobby as families took selfies and made their way through the soapy balloons in the air.
All tools and materials at the event were free to use. The event was sponsored by the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, The Children's Trust, and All Kids Included.
Some experiences included:
Super Squirt: a switch-activated liquid paintbrush that attaches to wheelchairs and propels paint 10 to 15 feet forward onto giant murals on the floor and walls.
The Art Roller: letting kids roll paint through an enormous floor of color
The Pogo Paint Poles: life-sized stamps
Chalk Walk and Roll: a wagon-type tool that holds three sticks of brightly colored chalk, allowing kids to draw on sidewalks.
Szot said the inventions were inspired by his past. Szot said he grew up in a Midwestern foster home with a foster brother and sister who had cerebral palsy. Other children and adults with disabilities lived in the home.
He credits that experience with giving him the courage and motivation to create the “painting wheelchair” to help children with disabilities create art.
Originally, as an artist and engineer, he designed and built machines that he used to apply color to huge surfaces including building walls, roofs and even a frozen lake.
Having studied how a machine could extend his own ability to make a mark, and remembering his foster siblings’ struggles, Szot was inspired in the 1980s to create a mechanical device that would serve to also extend a disabled person’s ability to make a mark.
"I'm very fortunate to have had the experiences I had," Szot said. "I'm very fortunate to have fallen myself as an artist, to be able to give this gift, all kids included."
But although the event was all play, families learned, explored and developed skills together.
Jeff Leon, 32, was no exception. He and his spouse, Gema Gonzalez, painted a storm as Leon maneuvered his way through the children in his wheelchair.
“It's hard word to make art, but it feels amazing,” Leon said. “It doesn't get any better than this.”
Jini Horelick, 52, felt the same about the experience with her 5-year-old twins, Jessica and Jake.
“They've never done anything like this,” she said, as Jake scurried through a field of bubbles.
“I want to take the bubbles home,” Jake said. “This is so exciting.”