This past April, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts (BAC) and Arts & Humanities Bainbridge (AHB) announced the winner of the 2023 Amy Award for Emerging Artists is illustrator and graphic designer, Mo Gallagher.
Growing up next to Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island is filled with cherished memories and experiences for Mo Gallagher. “Swimming in the duck pond (I don’t recommend it), biking the trails and trying to catch wild bunnies are the first highlights that come to mind,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful place where nature surrounded me and was integral to my youth.” Her parents still live in the same house she grew up in and she makes it a point to visit as often as she can. “Living in the city (Seattle) now I can’t help but romanticize the fresh air and simple island life that comes with being from Bainbridge.”
Not surprising, art was Mo’s favorite subject throughout her school years, and when she was gearing up to graduate from BHS, she knew she wanted to continue her art studies in college. She chose Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle because it was close to home and a smaller school that focused on inter-media studies. “My plan going into Cornish was to study fine art but as I finished my freshman year I decided to switch to design because I loved the graphic style and multipurpose possibilities within the degree,” she said. She graduated from Cornish (Summa Cum Laude) in 2021 with a BFA in Design.
Mo’s talent toward design is readily apparent on her website, where she displays some of her student projects, such as a redesign for Hot Wheels, a poster for Seattle Children’s Hospital, and an ad for the Battle Point Park Songs of Summer. Mo shared the thought process behind the projects, “Most times we would get a prompt from our professor with parameters that our work would have to meet. For example, the Hot Wheels design was for a project that required we redesign existing product packaging to be sustainable. I decided to redesign the packaging for Hot Wheels because I liked their existing branding and knew that the matchbox packaging would be both charming and timeless.”
Not all projects were quite so specific though, “For Children’s, the project was much more self-led. We were able to decide on our own deliverables and choose what the purpose of our project would be. I wanted to increase donations from the public so I created a series of posters that could be used for guerilla branding at heavy traffic areas like bus stops,” she explained. “I wanted to facilitate a relationship between the Seattle public and the patients at Children’s so the posters focused on kids that had been supported by donations from the community—my goal was to show people the specific and genuine results of their donations while simultaneously uplifting the kids by drawing them as heroes.”
Her illustrations are fun and whimsical, and she’s inspired by things that are slightly goofy, charming and approachable. “I’m specifically inspired by children’s media; tv shows, books and even clothing. I really like the practice of simplifying an idea to its core so that it is ‘consumable’ but still enjoyable and meaningful.” She also noted that we could all benefit from a bit more levity in our lives, and “children’s media does a great job of balancing complex themes with simple design.”
As a member of the marketing team for Ian’s Pizza in Seattle, she focuses on illustration and branding. When she begins a new project, she studies other artists that she admires to flesh out what she likes and dislikes about existing designs out there, this allows her to know what she’d like to accomplish in her own designs, “From there it’s a question of finding the sweet spot between style and substance.”
Winning the Amy Award for Emerging Artists came as a complete surprise for Mo. She’d spent a summer (during her college years) working at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts where she met their Retail Manager, Donna Scott and their Exhibitions Coordinator, David Sessions. It was a fantastic experience getting to know the gallery space and meeting fellow art lovers, and working with the staff. She enjoyed being in the mix of the tourist season, sharing her passion for art and the new artists being showcased.
“During my time there I told everyone about my art and the team was very supportive of my studies and passion,” she recalled. “It seems that Donna and David remembered me and entered me as an applicant for the Amy Award! I’m really touched that they thought of me and my work as something worthy of this award, it’s very encouraging as an artist that is still starting out and faces self-doubt every day.”
Mo hopes to use the Amy Award to publish “Cherished”, a book she created for her Senior Thesis at Cornish. “The book was created during Covid and was born from a desire to reframe my outlook by practicing mindful gratitude,” she said. “I really liked the idea of making something in the style of a children’s illustrated book but that was meant for adults and dealt with a potentially complex concept. Since my senior year was all online, I never prioritized printing the book as no one would be able to see it in person. Now that I’ve graduated and the world is beginning to open up again, I’d like to share my work in the way it was meant to be read.”
Aside from focusing on “Cherished” and her illustration and branding work, she’d like to experiment with more physical art fields like ceramics and miniature plush design. She’s also been thinking about freelance work, “I would love to create more personal work and hope to start tabling at artist alleys sometime this year. Somehow creating personal work feels like more of a challenge for me, the concept of building a personal brand is a daunting one but also an exciting challenge that I want to get more experience with!”
About The Amy Award – This award has been given annually since 2001 to an emerging artist from Bainbridge Island, under the age of 35, whose work demonstrates “a sense of quality, creativity, exploration, and dedication.” Managed by Arts & Humanities Bainbridge through an endowment held at the Bainbridge Community Foundation, the award was established and funded by David and Caren Anderson in memory of their late daughter, Amy, who was deeply involved in the visual and performing arts. Bainbridge Arts & Crafts and Bainbridge Performing Arts select recipients in alternating years.
Mo lives in Seattle with her cat named, Toad. If you’d like to learn more about her work, visit her website at: mogallagher | design (mogallagherdesign.com) or follow her on Instagram @mogallagher.png
*Photo credits: Mo Gallagher