Growing up in a foster home that he described as magical and full of Midwest can-do attitude, Dwayne Szot shared his life with other children in the home who had special needs.
And as he reached adulthood, those moments with his foster siblings would play a huge role in pushing him to do something to help children of all abilities share and enjoy his passion for art.
In the late 1980s, he created the first-ever painting wheelchair. Since then, he’s developed more ways people of all abilities can share in art making through his Zot Artz experiential inventions – with fun names like Give It a Whirl, Chalk Walk and Roll, Squirt Me, Major Bubbles and Pogo Paint Poles that attach easily to wheelchairs and walkers.
“It’s like art without limits. It really empowers. We make beautiful art, but it is about so much more than that,” he says from his Bayfield, Wis., art studio.
Szot, who travels away from his studio about 15 days a month offering art making experiences to people of all abilities all over the country, plus Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In June, he’s bringing his creativity to Chicago for the annual Abilities Expo to inspire even more kids to enjoy the freedom art can bring.
The Abilities Expo, June 12-14, is now in its seventh year at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center.
“This is the one opportunity in the Midwest that happens every year, which is focused on the person with the disability and their family,” says Abilities Expo CEO David Korse. “It’s kind of a three-day celebration, a chance to see friends and network, a chance to see the newest and coolest products and services that are available, a chance to engage with a variety of not-for-profit organizations. It’s a one-stop shopping mall and resource mall for the disability community.”
Admission and parking are free, as is the wheelchair repairs and loaner scooter rentals. Concessions are available.
For a quick at-a-glance look at the schedule, visit abilities.com/chicago/calendar.html
At the expo, Zot Artz’s featured activity will be the spring-loaded Pogo Paint Poles that involves a print, paint and whacking an easel man (in this case, likely Szot). But he’s opening to also offer his other innovations, as well.
“It’s a quick make and take activity where everybody can participate, have a little fun for a moment and make their mark,” he says. “It’s very human to be able to leave your mark, to be able to express yourself.”
Zot Artz is hoping to return to the Chicago area this fall. Watch zotartz.com or its Facebook page for news as well as lists of other locations.
“I think there’s so much more than I want to do and I’m just fortunate to have the opportunities to do that and make more possibilities for individuals of all abilities,” Szot says.