— by Meg Wolensky, Continuing Education Program Manager

Jo Gamel is a visual artist and Moore alum currently living in Philadelphia. Since summer 2019, she has taught a variety of classes for the Young Artists Workshop program, including Traditional Animation and Extreme Anime, Manga & Beyond for middle- and high-school students. 

Originally from the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions of the U.S., Gamel has explored 38 of the U.S. states. She originally moved to Philadelphia to attend Moore as an undergraduate student. She excelled at Moore, winning an impressive award-funded trip to Russia to gather inspiration. 

After graduating from Moore in 2013, she worked as an ESL instructor in Sweden and Turkey, and traveled to over 26 countries, including award-funded trips to Finland. All of her travels have informed her anthropological interests in goddesses, religious architecture, feminism and theology. Gamel attributes part of her interest in this discipline to her family’s mixed spiritualities, including Judaism, Polish Catholicism, English and Irish Episcopalianism, Celtic Wiccan, and Japanese Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. 

Gamel’s artistic process is heavily influenced by the practice of art as therapy, which she studied while receiving her master’s degree at Antioch University Seattle. Her work has been shown in galleries in Philadelphia, Seattle and New Jersey. She is currently an art education instructor, as well as a private tutor, ESL instructor, and occasionally assists at an art gallery.

She talked with Continuing Education Program Manager Meg Wolensky.

What brought you to Philadelphia?
After moving around the United States and Europe for a while, I decided to pursue a career in Philadelphia and I wanted to work at Moore College of Art & Design, specifically. Living in other nations opened my eyes to the importance of education for women. Working at Moore is much more than an income to me; it is a space that honors women and their creative capacities. 

Philadelphia is a historically significant city, with outspoken citizens who know their roots. There are things that make Philadelphia a world-class, modern metropolis that I wouldn’t be able to see now if I had not looked at her from the perspectives I gained in Stockholm, Ankara, Seattle or St. Petersburg. 

What do you love about Moore College of Art & Design?
My favorite thing about teaching here at Moore is when I see the “aha” moment in my students’ eyes. In my experience, the thrill of comprehending material and making critical connections between culture, history, art and language is what makes education exciting and engrossing.

What inspires you?
I have an ongoing artistic interest in global consumerism. It is a dark topic that I explore through still life oil paintings and the history of vanitas images. It is intertwined with ecological, political, colonial and globalization issues.
What’s your biggest career achievement in the arts?
I have a few! While in Vienna this spring, I was offered a position as the resident painter of the royal crypt of the Habsburgs. I was humbled by this moment in particular because it made me think of Velázquez’s story. Diego Velázquez was the court painter of the Habsburgs during the golden era of Spain, during which he created his magnum opus. 

I received the Excellence in Painting award from Moore, which funded my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. There, I studied Eastern Baroque architecture and fulfilled a childhood wish: to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The most valuable part of this experience was the self-empowerment, project planning and the resulting artwork.

Finally, I ran an art gallery along with my best friend last year. It was a steep learning curve and insightful experience that allowed us to connect to a wider network of artists in Philadelphia.