Seth Morano, a freshman at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, provided inspirational quotes for two artworks at this year’s Embracing Our Differences art gallery at Bayfront Park in Sarasota.

Student Spotlight: USF student receives praise at annual art competition for his inspirational quotes

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: January 21, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2020) – Seth Morano knows that he wants to pursue a writing career, but he hasn’t figured out exactly what form that should take. Fortunately for the University of South Florida student studying at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, there’s plenty of time to declare a major. Already, he’s winning accolades for writing.

Morano, 18, a freshman, has twice been recognized at the annual Embracing Our Differences art gala at Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. He contributed inspirational quotes to two exhibits in 2018 and 2019 that were top vote-getters for their powerful and insightful phrasing, including one that won “Best in Show.”

“The first time I entered in 2018 I was recognized and I thought this pretty cool but there’s no way this can happen again, but then I won Best in Show in 2019 and I was ecstatic,” says Morano, a senior at Booker High School at the time.

Morano won $500, plus another $500 went to Booker.

His winning inspirational quote at the 2019 competition, “Have the courage to stand up for what’s right, and have the wisdom to sit down and talk,” won Best in Show in the student category. The phrase was paired with an illustration, “The Thinker,” that depicted Rodin’s thinking man pummeled with brains by three empty-headed figures.

His other top vote-getter at the exhibit, “Defiance in the face of malicious bigotry shows true strength,” was paired with the illustration “The Greensboro Sit-In,” which depicted the famous 1960 sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina.

The year before, his “Flags show where we come from; actions show who we are” entry received praise as well. It was paired with “Reflections of Liberty,” an illustration of the Statue of Liberty overlooking shimmering flags spread across New York Harbor.

Morano takes the accolades in stride. “I’m afraid it will get to my head,” he says. But he savors the platform Embracing Our Differences provides to shine a light on issues involving diversity and recent U.S. history, including segregation.

“A lot of my quotes so far are about having the courage to stand up for what’s right. They’re kind of Martin Luther King-esque,” he says. “I’ve taken a lot of my inspiration from recent events.”

He credits middle school teacher Joanna Fox with helping him to find his voice and inspiring him to pursue a writing career. On a whim in high school he entered the Embracing Our Differences competition and was surprised by the attention his quote received considering the hundreds of entries worldwide.

Two more of his inspirational quotes were accepted into the 2020 competition, which debuted on Saturday at Bayfront Park. The show features 50 billboard-sized works of art and runs through April 5.

His phrase “Foreigners are simply new neighbors” was paired with the image entitled Ancestral Passage and “Your track in life should not be determined by what side of the tracks you come from” was matched with What Are You Looking For?

Morano said that simply having his quotes accepted into the competition is reward enough.

“I believe in what this organization has to offer because I am a disabled person and I know what it’s like to benefit from a diverse culture,” he says.

“People see diversity and think it’s intimidating but in reality it’s not, and with Embracing Our Differences we use art to show that a diverse group can make something truly amazing,” Morano says. “We want to say, ‘Hey this is what the world can do and this is why we must have diversity.’”

For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit

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