One step into the Mackey Twins Art Gallery in Mount Vernon, and Teacup Fishing takes your breath away. This large, yarn-embroidery portrait of a young girl, by Ruth Miller, is just one of the eye-popping works displayed and offered for sale by Sharon Mackey McGee (above, left) and Karen Mackey Witherspoon. Identical twins and longtime art lovers, the two have made it their mission to support artists of color and to reinvent the gallery experience in the process.
Former English teachers, the twins initially found fine art financially out of reach. “We would buy one, pay that off, and then immediately purchase another,” says Mackey Witherspoon. The system worked so well, the two decided to make that opportunity available to others, opening the Mackey Twins Art Gallery in 2004. Art shows feature live music, wine, and no sales pressure. “We wanted to provide an environment where everyone felt important, no matter what they were able to purchase,” says Mackey Witherspoon.
Helping artists thrive and introducing people to the joy of owning art are the twins’ top priorities, outweighing their profit margin. “Let’s say it’s a good thing we kept our full-time jobs,” adds Mackey McGee, who is executive director of continuing and professional studies at the City College of New York. Mackey Witherspoon is vice president of government, community and cultural affairs at the same institution. “I don’t think what we do is a perfect business model, but it’s ours,” jokes Mackey McGee.