All Kids Included Family Arts Festival

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By: Melanie Gomez

Accessibility and inclusion of kids with special needs and disabilities isn't one big thing, rather it’s dozens of small details. One of the best events to see an abundance of these thoughtful accommodations on display is the All Kids Included Festival held annually at the The Moss Center in Cutler Bay. While the All Kids Included Festival is enjoyed by all kinds of families, it is the many thoughtful details tailored to the special needs community that make it so exceptional.

From the moment you park your car and spot ramps in every direction, you see that accessing the event won't cost anyone with wheels any extra effort. The information booths provide colorful large print maps, Braille schedules, noise-cancelling headphones, assistive listening devices and directions to the quiet room. Every kind of exceptionality has been considered here, and there is no type of child or family that will feel left out. This year about 1,400 people reveled in the inclusive party atmosphere.

The 15 live art performances are not only fully accessible but fully representational of artists with all levels of abilities. Captivating is an understatement when it comes to the main stage performers. ILL-Abilities is an international dance crew that entertains, educates and inspires. Award-winning deaf magician, Magic Morgan, mesmerizes young and old with seemingly impossible tricks that bring a smile to every face.

Further afield of the main stage you will find a variety of local artists like ASL storytelling, Karen Peterson Dancers, Greater Miami Youth Symphony, Ballet at the Park, Area Stage Company’s Inclusive Theater Program, Didgeridoo Fun with Jared Bistrong, South Florida Center for Percussive Arts, African Watoto Dance Theater, Guitars Over Guns, Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, DJ Trooklyn and Cutler Bay Senior High School’s SharkPAC. The loaded line-up guarantees enjoyment for young and old of all tastes, talents and abilities.

Kiddie favorites definitely include the more interactive art opportunities, like Zot Artz adaptive painting and printmaking, where everyone can contribute to the artwork, or the multiple face painting stations where kids become the artwork. Even the most rambunctious kiddos can get their fill of fun with a bounce house and rock climbing wall.

Grown-ups’ favorite spots are more likely to include the food truck area with offerings such as shaved ice to beat the heat, boy scouts selling all-American hot dogs, or the lomo salteado burger to satisfy the pickiest foodie. Parents also enjoy the comfy seating at all the venues and wide-open spaces for little ones to run and play. There is no area to “keep off” or “be quiet” which allows for limitless exploration both indoors and out.

With so many sights and sounds to experience it will take a while before you get to the community resource section of the festival, but it's a must-see for all families affected by special needs or disability. About 20 different local organizations whose mission is supporting and including all kids are on hand just in time for caregivers looking for summer activities, healthcare providers and other hard-to-find resources.

The venue itself is an expression of accessible art. Pleasing to the eyes outside and pleasantly accessible on the inside, the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center has served as a world-class, multi-disciplinary cultural venue and community gathering place since its doors opened in 2011. Not only through a diverse range of quality entertainment but also through an intentional emphasis on educational and outreach activities in partnership with community groups. The center plays a key role in the economic and cultural development of the area and was a key component in the revitalization plans for the South Dade area after its devastation in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew.

Hosted the first week of May every year for the past 13 years, this festival is at the core of a wide variety of programs offered by the Miami Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs’ All Kids Included - Accessible Arts Experiences for Kids initiative, funded in part by the Children’s Trust. Their inclusive programs and summer camps offer something for everyone in locations throughout Miami Dade County. As poignantly stated by the ILL-Abilities spokesperson at the end of their performance, “Art is something that can be truly accessible to all.”

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