Karen and Sharon Mackey Contributed
Identical twin sisters Karen and Sharon Mackey are on a mission to show the love to artist of color by teaching people how to become art collectors and decorate homes and businesses with fine art.
Years earlier, as young public high school teachers, the sisters bought and framed poster prints but realized their purchases were not supporting the artists.
“We were on a public teacher’s salary at the time and we did not know how to go about collecting original pieces,” said Sharon Mackey. “We met a gallery owner who told us we could collect. ‘I’ll put you on a payment plan and you tell me what you are comfortable with every month,’ and that is how we started collecting original work. Every time we exceeded a payment plan, we just started another one. We recognized the need to support artist of color who were not represented in the same way that other artist were.”
“That motivated us into moving forward to open our own gallery,” added Karen Mackey.
Opened in 2004, The Mackey Twins Art Gallery, located at 457 E. Sidney Ave. (off North Columbus Avenue) in Mt. Vernon, is now the largest collection of exclusive works of artist of color in the tristate area.
The sisters recognized that artists of color are usually under-appreciated, under-supported and under-collected. Believing the 1 of 2 5/6/2016 1:03 PM Twins work together in support of art | New York Amsterdam News: support of artist of color is an important universal message, the twins acknowledge that as “persons of color we have a responsibility to support art and that is our ongoing mission.”
“Artist of color should be in business, and they should feel love, support and support comes from not just coming out to events but also finding art,” stated Sharon Mackey. “Find art that you really like. We have been able to communicate that message and people have heard and understood that message.”
“We also realize how underrepresented the artist of color industry is,” added Karen Mackey. “We need to get people to understand that purchasing art is marking history, time and moments.”
The sister’s collection includes exclusive work by acclaimed artists Xenobia Bailey, Betty Blayton, Stacey Brown, Wayne Bowen, Leroy Campbell, James Denmark, Essud Fungcap, Magno Laracuente, Ruth Miller, Charly Palmer and TWIN.
The sisters are 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 other honors. In 2010, they were awarded 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. But you can go on payments plans. My sister and I love to speak to people about art. Ask questions. It is a part of our mission. Don’t feel uncomfortable. We did not know when we first started. Everyone is drawn to something.”
The exhibit titled, “The Legacy Continues: New Works, New Mediums,” was held Saturday, April 9 and Sunday April 10 at the Mackey Twins Art Gallery. The exhibit celebrated the 80th birthday of the master artist James Denmark and included 80 pieces by Denmark for sale.
The sisters also maintain demanding professional careers. Currently Karen Mackey is vice president of the Division of Government, Community and Cultural Affairs at the City College of New York and Sharon Mackey is the executive director of Continuing and Professional Studies at the City College of New York.
“Running a gallery and maintaining our careers is a juggling act,” said Sharon Mackey. “But we both have a lot of energy, we are very close and trust each other.”
“The fact that we are partners makes it much easier,” added Karen Mackey. “We love it and love talking about the art. It is a passion and a calling. When we talk about art it is with genuine passion.”