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Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation brings art to life for nearly 400 students with special needs

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) recently provided hands-on creative residencies for nearly 400 K-12 students with special needs and abilities in Walton County. The residencies took place at two Santa […]

Source: Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) recently provided hands-on creative residencies for nearly 400 K-12 students with special needs and abilities in Walton County.

  • The week-long program, held from April 8, was led by artist and inventor Dwayne Szot, founder of Zot Artz, as part of MKAF’s ArtsReach residency program.

The residencies took place at two Santa Rosa Beach schools: South Walton Academy and Emerald Coast Middle School.

The South Walton Academy Adaptive Arts Day served approximately 175 K-12 students of all abilities, while the Walton County School District Special Olympics Field Day at Emerald Coast Middle School served around 215 K-12 students with special needs from 15 schools in the Walton County School District and Westinwood Ranch, a holistic learning program for individuals with developmental differences.

Source: Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation

“We’re thrilled to have Dwayne Szot back with his wonderful Zot Artz program,” said Melanie Moore, MKAF education director. “He really is the Willy Wonka of the adaptive arts world. He has invented these fantastical creations that appeal to people of all abilities, but also help people create together. So, whether one of the students is in a wheelchair, or perhaps they lack fine motor skills, we’re providing an opportunity for them to create art in a collaborative and meaningful way.”

In 2024, MKAF presented around 140 ArtsReach programs, a record 71 percent increase over the previous year. Since its establishment in 1995, MKAF estimates its outreach has impacted more than 400,000 individuals in the local Northwest Florida community.

  • MKAF’s Arts for All Abilities initiative is unique in the area, as it is the only arts organization with a specific program dedicated to delivering arts to people of all abilities. “I’m very proud of that and the fact that it has been part of the culture of our organization,” Moore said.

Proceeds from MKAF-produced events fund the organization’s community outreach mission, which includes providing cultural outreach programs through ArtsReach for K-12 students, adults and children with special needs, at-risk youth, and active/veteran military through MKAF’s Warrior Arts program.

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