Arts and Entertainment

Bonnie Rae Mills: A spark of youth on the Old Town Art Walk

Bonnie Rae Mills, a self-portrait. See more of her work online at - Courtesy Photo/Bonnie Rae Mills
Bonnie Rae Mills, a self-portrait. See more of her work online at
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Bonnie Rae Mills

The 18-year-old photographer takes home Best of Show.

What an interesting time it is to be 18.

At 18 years old, North Kitsap photographer Bonnie Rae Mills recently became one of the youngest artists to garner Best of Show at the Old Town Art Walk in the six years since the art walk has been in existence.

Aside from the students at the local Kitsap Art academy (and the students in last month’s student show at Silverdale Fine Artists) Mills is one of a growing number of young artists starting to show their work on the quarterly Silverdale art walk.

She also represents the tip of an iceberg of a group of underage, underground artists spread throughout the county, some of whom aren’t represented at any gallery, who are constantly creating art regardless.

But Mills won’t be here for too much longer.

She’s headed to the Academy of Art in San Francisco this fall to further pursue a career in some vein of photography.

“I’m about to take on the biggest debt I’ve ever known while the financial world is collapsing on itself,” Mills said, noting part of what makes now an interesting time to be 18.

But, she adds, she’s excited for the change in scenery, and likewise excited for a new music scene.

Over the past three years, she has embedded herself into the local music scene, in the all ages halls of Kitsap as well as the clubs and festivals of Seattle, shooting freelance for local media while combining two of her greatest passions in life — music and photography.

“I always wanted to be a rock star,” she said, sitting down with What’s Up before last week’s Old Town Art Walk.

While she never quite found the instrument that suited her (that is until she found the camera), she said music has always been an indescribable life force for Mills.

When she finally gave up on her dream of becoming a rock star, she found the post in the press pit right up next to the stage to be equally alluring.

It’s from that vantage that she’s taken some of her most evocative shots — like the stark, illuminating portrait of the orange-haired lead singer from the band Paramore, which she took at Endfest 16 in Seattle.

“I was just blown away by the maturity of her pieces,” Old Town Custom Framing and Gallery owner Maria Mackovjack said. Mackovjack was the first Old Town art purveyor to invite Mills to show her work in Old Town Silverdale, which eventually secured her place on the art walk.

“She has the eye, not only for form, but also for color and for the function in how the piece is going to play out,” she added.

“With photography, I can make everyone see exactly what I see in my head,” Mills said.

Through her photography, she’s also got a unique perspective on the digital age of art. Mills has the ability to present those pictures to the world, both on the gallery wall (like at the Old Town Art Walk) and in online digital image galleries, like hers at

There’s pros and cons to both sides, she notes.

While the Internet allows a vast amount of people to create, post and see art, as a result, the pool art is also diluted by “the sheer amount of imagery that is coming at you every second,” she said.

On the other hand, if art were relegated to fancy museums and galleries, “By not allowing the poor and middle classes to view art as easily it becomes elitist.”

FIND MORE BONNIE RAE MILLS in her online Flickr photo gallery at

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