at the Aquarium of the Pacific
The Festival of Human Abilities held at the Aquarium of the Pacific was filled with energetic performances, booths with artwork, and unique classes that taught attendees new skills. The festival celebrated the talents of individuals with disabilities, and was included with the purchase of a ticket to the aquarium. It took place on January 25th and 26th, and contained a jam- packed schedule running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days.
The festival schedule located at the aquarium entrance.
A highlight of the festival was dancer Auti Angel, who stunned the crowd with her dance choreography in a wheelchair on the main stage in the center of the aquarium. Her story inspired those looking on, as she openly spoke about the time that she became paralyzed in a car accident. The accident left her unable to control the lower half of her body, ultimately leading to her needing a wheelchair. An important fact to note is prior to the accident, Auti was a professional dancer who has worked with talent such as Eazy-E and Ludacris. Despite this life-changing event, Auti proved that her talent is unhindered and she can still put on a fantastic show.
“You are here listening to this for a reason,” Auti said to the audience. “I am speaking life into you saying that you need to follow your dreams no matter what obstacle comes your way.”
Ceraldo Moreau (Left), Auti Angel (center), and Selasi Dogbatse (right) perform a hip-hop dance routine.
Tatiana A. Lee (Left), Amber-Lynn Machowski (Center), and Auti Angel (Right) get in position to begin their dance routine.
Some of the other performances in the festival included the Love In Motion Singing Choir, a music performance by trio Per Se, an American Sign Language musical performance by Zendrea Mitchell, and scuba diving demonstrations in the large central tank. A key part of the event was the fact that the aquarium did everything it could to ensure everybody was able to enjoy the festivities. To accommodate those who have a hearing disability, sign language interpreters were placed on stage during each of the performances. For guests who are blind, audio and braille versions of the aquarium tour and visitor guide were on hand.
Musical group Per Se performs on the Honda Blue Cavern Stage.
As I wandered through the walkway near the cafe and gift shop, I noticed many different types of artwork up on display for all to see. I found these beautiful art pieces unique because every single one was created by artists with a disability. The art showcase included paintings, hand printed hats, and animation. I stood in amazement as I watched on while a woman painted a picture while holding the paintbrush with her mouth.
Artwork and live painting stations set up near the cafe.
The event was great for all ages, as interactive painting and coloring stations for children were also set up nearby. Located in classrooms both in the inside and outside sections of the aquarium, instructional courses were held for people of all abilities. The lessons taught included painting with wheelchair wheels, singing in sign language, dancing, decorative hat painting, and animation. Because of its inclusivity and ability to raise awareness, the event has been put on annually for 17 years and it will continue to inspire everybody who attends for years to come.
“What inspires me is the people that show up,” Auti said. “The diverse, inclusive atmosphere that [the event] brings. It brings everybody together and that’s my favorite part.”