Health & Fitness

Zot Artz helps kids of all abilities create art on a massive scale at Frost FIU

Dwayne Szot, founder of Zot Artz, equips Valentina Almeira’s wheelchair with an adaptive art tool during the Zot Artz event near the Frost Art Museum at FIU.
Dwayne Szot, founder of Zot Artz, equips Valentina Almeira’s wheelchair with an adaptive art tool during the Zot Artz event near the Frost Art Museum at FIU. For the Miami Herald

Growing up, Dwayne Szot wanted to help his foster siblings who had cerebral palsy express themselves artistically. Believing that all children should be able to make art, the budding artist, inventor and engineer invented the first “painting wheelchair,” and went on to create various adaptive art tools so kids of all abilities could express themselves creatively.

On Saturday, a massive canvas was laid out on the first floor of the parking garage adjacent to the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University’s south campus. The vision for Zot Artz, Szot’s company, was in full effect as kids and teens, some in wheelchairs and some not, stamped and rolled neon designs onto the paper canvas, creating a collaborative mural.

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Dwayne Szot, founder of Zot Artz, poses with 8-year-old Valentina Almeira of Kendall and her mother, Enilde Rodriguez, and her little sister, Isabella Almeira, during the Zot Artz event at FIU on Saturday. ENILDE RODRIGUEZ For the Miami Herald

“I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it wasn’t for the opportunity to grow up with individuals of all abilities,” said Szot, who garnered grants from the National Endowment for the Arts decades ago, to hone his inventions of adaptive art tools. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and spends much of his time traveling, bringing the Zot Artz experience all over the United States.

“I think it’s a good activity for all children,” says Enilde Rodriguez of Kendall, who has two daughters. Her oldest, Valentina Almeira, 8, has cerebral palsy. Valentina was all smiles as she made a print-screen T-shirt with the word “kind” on it — the theme for the event. Szot also equipped her wheelchair with an adaptive stamp tool, where she made stamped designs on the paper canvas.

“Everyone comes on board and we all create something,” says Miriam Machado, the curator of education at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum. She serves as a member of the advisory committee, All Kids Included, which served as a presenting sponsor for the event, along with West Kendall Baptist Hospital.

This was the second time Doral resident and FIU student Raquel Hernandez, 40, brought her two kids, Jonathan, 11, and Samantha Hernandez, 9, to a Zot Arts event. The kids used large stamps, with sun and flower designs, to make their marks on the canvas.

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Dwayne Szot, founder of Zot Artz, holds up a model of the ‘Glow Show.’ Pieces from the collaborative mural created during FIU’s Zot Artz event on March 24 will be installed in a black box and become a “Glow Show” installation at the 12th annual All Kids Included (AKI) Family Arts Festival on May 5. CAITLIN GRANFIELD For the Miami Herald

“I want them to be able to express themselves and be creative,” Hernandez says of her kids. Her daughter wants to be a veterinarian and her son wants to be an engineer when they grow up. “But I tell them, you need creativity because it helps you in any career that you do.”

Pieces from the collaborative mural will get installed in a black box and become a “Glow Show” installation at the 12th annual All Kids Included (AKI) Family Arts Festival, a free event that will be held Saturday, May 5, at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.

Online

▪ To learn more about Zot Artz, visit www.zotartz.com.

▪ For more information about the upcoming 12th annual All Kids Included (AKI) Family Arts Festival, visit www.smdcac.org/events/12th-annual-all-kids-included-festival.

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