Photo by Clive Dudley
Clothing by Tanya Marie
Alejandra Amanda Suarez was born on August, 1994 in Miami, Florida and her greatest enjoyment has always been Art as well as physical activities like Figure Skating. At age three, her journey in the arts first began with the inspiration of Disney's "The Lion King". Fascinated by the brilliant colors and majestic animal figures, Alejandra started to draw at a constant rate with crayons and pencils... “I was always pretty fond of vibrant colors and wild life and my mother let me continue my interest by buying sketchbooks”. Thus, her past works were full of bright colors and expressive gestures, giving the animals and nature a lively feel to them. Her mother, Caridad Gutierrez, noticed this interest in the visual arts early..."Every time Alejandra asked me for a new sketchbook, it would be completely filled by the end of each month!"
Her artistic journey, however, was thought to be cut short when she was declared "legally blind" at the world renowned “Bascom Palmer Eye Institute" in Miami. Dr. Hilda Capo, a specialist in pediatric visual impairments, diagnosed Alejandra with "Hereditary Bilateral Optic Nerve Neuropathy" at age seven. In short, this condition is an irreversible optic nerve defect leading to visual impairment, or legal blindness. At the time of her diagnosis, her mother never told her that she could not continue expressing herself through any form of arts. Therefore, Alejandra went on with the journey of sketching, drawing, and painting. Became a client of the “South Florida Division of Blind Services, or (DBS)” with the help of her mother, in order to receive the proper tools to help her cope with this visual impairment in school as well as socially. Thus, any needed accommodations would be coordinated through “DBS.”
During her younger years, Alejandra attended the historic but now closed “Corpus Christi Catholic School” from pre-k, elementary, and middle school, with the addition of her last year being the final graduating class from “Corpus Christi”. Here Ms. Sunny Marquez, a former art teacher at the school mentored and helped to hone and build her skills. Ms. Sunny saw potential in Alejandra's art works and believed that she could be taught new techniques to heighten them to a more professional level. Disregarding her visual impairment, Ms. Sunny believed in challenging her students. Therefore when it was time to audition for Design and Architecture Senior High School, Alejandra's portfolio was well equipped and thus accepted.
Design and Architecture Senior High, or DASH, is one of the country’s most prestigious high school magnet programs. Here students learn and challenge themselves with new approaches to different subjects of both Art and Design. Also, from the start of sophomore year, all student are required to choose a strand; Architecture, Industrial Design, Film, Graphic Design, and Fashion Design. Alejandra chose Fashion Design and her mother took immediate action into coordinating a meeting with the “Division of Blind Service” specialist, the school’s principal, counselor, and every assigned teacher she had for each year to insure what types of accommodations would be necessary. “It was always a unanimous reaction from the teachers when they found out I was legally blind and I never understood why". She explained her special accommodation requirements to each teacher in order to feel comfortable in class. Some of which included, sitting up front in all classes, large print text books and test papers, black marker for the white boards, and critical situations like more time for testing. Plus, when it came to her art classes like Drawing, Alejandra drew the full still-life instead of detailed crops like the rest of her classmates... "I didn't want to get in anyone's way when we had to draw from life because I had to walk closer to the objects in order to see them, but luckily the professor helped as much as he could to make me feel comfortable". Thus, she graduated successfully from Design and Architecture Senior High and chose Miami Dade College’s New World School of the Arts (NWSA) to continue her college education.
Similar to her high school years at DASH Alejandra had to explain her impairment to each professor in college. She majored in Fine Arts and minored in Art History from the year 2012 to the year of 2017. Graduating as Cum Laude, honors degree, with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the University of Florida and is currently a Resident Artist at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami.
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