Diverse Abilities Arts Festival celebrates Tampa Bay's special needs artists

On October 1, the Tampa Bay community will come together at the Diverse Abilities Arts Festival to celebrate the talent and work of artists with special needs. 

Nora Paine, the producing artistic director with the New Tampa Players community theater group, was inspired to start the festival after her involvement in the Penguin Project, a theater program at New Tampa Players that encourages diversity in the arts by giving a platform to those with disabilities. 

“A student asked me ‘Do people like me do this?’” Paine says. 

The festival allows people with disabilities to find inspiration by seeing others with similar disabilities participate in the arts. Arts4All Florida, a Tampa nonprofit that offers art education programs in community centers, schools and juvenile justice facilities, is one organization that will have a gallery at the festival.

“This is a way for us to strengthen the community in Tampa,” Arts4All Florida Director of Programs Karla Aguayo says. “It also allows us to see other organizations in person and support them.”

Their goal is to promote artists with disabilities and their accomplishments. 

“We want to say, ‘Hey, we’re here’ to a broader community,” Aguayo says. 

The Diverse Abilities Arts Festival is in collaboration with the 14th annual YES! F.A.I.R. and is scheduled from 10 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. October 1 at All People’s Park & Life Center, 6105 E. Sligh Ave. in Tampa.

The festival will feature art galleries, spoken word, open mic, theater performances, dance performances, film screenings and opportunities to have fun and network. Live performances and workshops by Arts in the Park are slated to begin at approximately 10:30 a.m. There will be a screening of “Because of Sam,” a documentary about a young man with Down syndrome, and a choreographed flash mob. An arts avenue will have galleries by Arts4All and Creative Clay. St. Petersburg nonprofit Creative Clay’s gallery will feature paintings of the iconic buildings and landmarks of Tampa Bay.

For more information, go to Diverse Abilities Arts Festival.