You may not recognize this FACE of Louisville at first without her trademark glasses, but photographer Mo McKnight Howe’s influence on the local art community is very much recognizable. Mo is the owner of Revelry Boutique Gallery in NuLu, a hybrid establishment that is equal parts boutique and art gallery, where she hand-picks and showcases beautiful pieces from local artists. And if you still don’t recognize her, she’s also the little sister of J.K. McKnight, founder of the Forecastle Festival, an annual event in which she is very involved as well. Mo’s philosophy is that she’s an artist first and foremost, and here she shares why for artists, creating is not just a want, but a need.
When and how did you become owner of Revelry?
I had just graduated from the Hite Art Institute at University of Louisville, and my friend Paula had opened Revelry. She needed help finding artists and running the shop, and that’s when I came in. I have always wanted a career working with artists and curating. This allowed me to do exactly that. Paula ended up moving away from Louisville, and that’s when I took on full ownership of the business. That was in 2011.
Do you have a background in art? What is your taste in art?
Yes, I have my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree and have been making and selling art since the age of 7. My concentration is photography, but I enjoy oil painting, charcoal drawing and working with resin. My personal collection consists mostly of contemporary art by local artists.
How do you find such great artists to display?
There are many different ways I find my artists. I often go to local art fairs, the Flea Off Market, etc., to find people that could make goods for the boutique. For the gallery, I go to BFA shows (shows featuring the work of BFA students at local colleges), artists’ studios, or do general research on the Internet to hopefully find the next up-and-coming artist to display.
Recently you moved Revelry over to Market Street in NuLu. Have you enjoyed your new location?
The new location has been wonderful. Foot traffic has increased, and so many more people have discovered local artists through the shop. It’s been really great for tourism as well. I get many out-of-towners who are able to discover new Louisville artists that they did not know about before.
What’s next on the horizon for you and for Revelry?
I’m always thinking of expanding, whether that be with different inventory or a Revelry #2. But I am also still a working photographer, and sometimes I would like to put more into that career now that Revelry is more established. I miss being creative. For myself, and most artists, it’s not a want to create; it’s a need.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
Those who work hard reap the benefits. Success doesn’t come with pure luck. You have to work for it, sacrifice a lot of things for it, and there are some that are just not cut-out for that.
Who is your mentor?
My mentors are my family. I come from a long line of small business owners. It’s because of them that I was instilled with a good work ethic, and I understand that what I do may never make me rich, but it enriches my life and my community.
What is best advice you have received in business?
Paula, my old business partner and an MBA, taught me the best lesson I ever learned in business: “If it’s not a WIN-WIN for both parties, don’t do it.” I use that not only in business, but in life when making decisions and agreements.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
I would love to be a buyer for an ethically sound company that distributes goods made from various people in different countries. This way I could travel around the world, meet makers and give them opportunities that they’ve never had before. Or, I would like to be a mom. Hopefully that will happen in the future.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I was the head lacrosse coach at Sacred Heart Academy, my alma mater, for a couple of years. I took the job while still in college and playing for U of L. The athletic director called me personally and said the program was really struggling and needed a drastic change. I like to say I helped lead them in the right direction.
What is your favorite place to go eat?
Where do you like to shop?
Lately, the Flea-Off Market. I got an awesome kimono there a couple of weeks ago.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Every couple of months I get a cranial sacral massage (a head massage). I carry so much tension in my neck, jaw and head, and it helps so much.
What is your weakness?
I take business personally. I have a hard time separating the two because I have put my heart and soul into what I do.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love going to music and art shows. Anyone who knows me knows that I am out and about all the time going to see either a new band or artist. Music and art make me happy, especially when they are in my hometown.
Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):
My dog Major, coffee and tacos.
What are you reading right now?
What are three of your favorite things right now:
Kimonos, wallabies and the song “Hey Mami” by Sylvan Esso.
Stop by Revelry Boutique Gallery, located at 742 E. Market St. in Louisville, to meet Mo and Major and to see what great work Louisville artists are doing.
Want to read about more inspiring women in the community? Click here to check out more FACES.
As always, much gratitude to our FACES photographer Adele Reding for her fantastic work. See her profile on her Facebook page.