They are affectionately known as “The Twins” because they are. Sisters Karen Mackey Witherspoon and Sharon Mackey McGee are the proud founders of the Mackey Twins Art Gallery located in Mount Vernon, New York. The Gallery is their passion project and sprung from their inspired love of art and the people who create it.
The Mackey Twins began as collectors, but soon recognized that artists of color were not significantly represented or adequately supported within the broader community. This idea that there was a community of established artist of color, who often found it difficult having their work exhibited by more mainstream galleries, and that new rising stars would need a place that nurtured creativity, was the catalyst that led the twins to create The Mackey Twins Art Gallery in 2004, at 457 E. Sidney Avenue (off North Columbus Avenue).
The mission of the Gallery was clear to Karen and Sharon from the onset - to develop communities of collectors; saturate homes and businesses with fine art; educate, and teach non-collectors how to invest in collecting fine art. That mission is one they have embedded in every aspect of the Gallery’s day to day operation.
The Gallery is something they devote a great deal of their time to, but the sisters hold important jobs outside as well. Karen is the Vice President of Government, Community, and Cultural Affairs at The City College of New York, where she serves as the chief liaison with elected officials, government agencies, and community leaders. In addition, her office is responsible for events management at the premier performing arts and cultural center on campus. Sharon is the Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies, also at The City College of New York, where she oversees professional development, certification, and implementation of innovative programs and outreach.
Changing the attitudes and the respect given to artists of color means educating all communities on the critical role that these artists play in recording the journey, the history, and the struggles, as well as the rich tapestry of the Black experience. Their belief that artists of color should be equally valued, appreciated, supported and collected is a fundamental part of the Gallery's mission, as is sharing these works with the public at large. “As persons of color we have a responsibility to support art, and that is our ongoing mission.”
The Gallery’s current collection includes exclusive works by Xenobia Bailey, Betty Blayton, Stacey Brown, Leroy Campbell, Elizabeth Catlett, James Denmark, Essud Fungcap, Magno Laracuente, Ruth Miller, Charly Palmer and Terry and Jerry Lynn, brothers who are best known as TWIN.
Karen and Sharon's work in helping to raise awareness and the profile of artists of color has been celebrated and recognized by a number of organizations. They are the proud recipients of the National Conference of Artists - Black History Makers Award, the Leroy Campbell Exemplary Art Forum Award, the Harlem Business Alliance’s Community Service Award, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and WBLS Urban Community Award and the 2015 Westchester County Trailblazer Award for commitment to the Arts, among others. In 2010, they were handed the Key to the City of Mt. Vernon.
“We want people to know there are ways to purchase original art,” said Sharon Mackey. “Sometimes you look at price points, and it can be a little intimidating.” Sharon and Karen want to show others what they learned in their quest to become collectors – that it does not require you to have deep pockets, “You can begin by setting up a payment plan.” Educating others on the simple notions of a payment, is just one of the many the many things they are devoted to doing as part of their life’s journey.