Mo Lebowitz, passionate mandolinist and beloved member of the bluegrass community in New York, died on Sunday, June 25. He was 84 years of age.
Though he never achieved notoriety for his mandolin playing, Mo had friends all across the US, and was surely among the most memorable characters in our wider bluegrass world. He traveled widely with his wife, Loretta, to festivals and workshops all over the country, and if you had met him along the way, you never forgot it.
In his professional life, Mo was a highly regarded graphic designer, and a recognized expert in hand-set, letterpress type. After moving to New York from his native Washington, DC in 1960, he worked as art director for a number of top firms before becoming a partner with The Design Organization. His most celebrated work, however, came from his own basement shop on Long Island, using antique equipment, dingbats, and fonts which he called The Antique Press.
Collecting this sort of gear, which much of the print world saw as archaic once digital design took over the industry, was a life’s work for Lebowitz and he used it to create award-winning pieces for clients for many years. When he retired from press work, he donated his equipment to the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University for preservation and display.
Celebrity found him later in life when he and Loretta were featured in a television commercial for CitiBank, created by the Academy Award winning director, Errol Morris.
Both the bluegrass and the art/design communities mourn the loss of such an exceptional person, and those who knew him feel themselves fortunate to have done so.
R.I.P., Mo Lebowitz.