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Flagler Artists: Grace Senior Morandi

After speaking with a plethora of artists for this magazine, I am always taken aback with the life story that is just as colorful as the art they produce. Grace Senior Morandi has lived a unique life. Originally from Barranquilla, Colombia, she was first introduced to art in Catholic school. There she learned about sketching, art, music, and theater (in both Spanish and French) from the nuns teaching her. She even won a national art contest at 13.
Despite this, art itself was not something that maintained her attention. However, her skills were used in another way. As a child, her uncle oversaw constructing floats for the annual Colombian carnivals. One day, she sat with him while he coordinated his employees and handed her a pad of paper. He asked her to sketch the float’s schematics for him. This was the start of her extensive career in engineering.
She later graduated from the, then all female, University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia with full certifications in engineering. So extensive and difficult was this career path. The program started with 400 students, but by the end, Grace was one of 2 graduates. With this, she started her expansive career back home, working for in Barranquilla city hall. As a child, her family taught her the importance of giving back to the community. Her uncle gave back with his floats. She opted to give back with her knowledge.
Work took her all over. She traveled to other parts of Colombia as a mechanical engineer. She had designed parts of shrimp boats, conveyers and mixers, potato peelers, and designed kitchen equipment.
Her work took her to the United States, from Los Angeles to Chicago and all over Florida. All that time, sketching and expanding on schematics the same way she had for her uncle, but now far more complicated.
Eventually, Grace found retirement and revisited the art she had put aside as a child. She had explored as many techniques as she could. Watercolor, ink, charcoal, acrylic, before settling on Mixed Media.
Having spent so long as an engineer, designing devices with precise measurements requiring exactitude, Grace had worked the left side of her brain. The right side, where all the creativity can flourish, was begging for its turn to shine. It is why she prefers the more abstract look in her pieces. “I don’t want this exactitude. I want to create destruction, but with harmony.”
With these growing art skills, the call to give back to the community was still on her mind. “We can serve the community in many ways,” she says. “To serve in profession, you do one thing. Volunteering gives more.” While living in Tampa and teaching art classes to their schools, she led other artists to join her in painting the ceiling tiles at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
For eight years, she taught art to patients diagnosed with dementia in Ocala. Seeing brilliant colors grasps the patients’ attention. She learned from their responses and implemented them into her work.
The patients organized pieces by color that fascinated her and continues to affect her color schemes.
This experience carries with her to now, where she teaches art classes in libraries across Orlando. “You have to give the opportunity to the people to develop and enjoy life, to be creative,” she says. “Anybody can be creative.”
Grace’s pieces are on display at the Galerie Elan in Daytona Beach, as well as the Hub on Canal in New Smyrna Beach.