Art

Michael McCormick Gallery needs help

A longtime fundraiser for community faces own financial crisis

By Virginia L. Clark
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 10/9/19

Michael McCormick is scared. Illness and slow sales are killing his bottom line at Michael McCormick & Sons Gallery, located a few doors north of Taos Plaza.He has fallen …

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Art

Michael McCormick Gallery needs help

A longtime fundraiser for community faces own financial crisis

Posted

Michael McCormick is scared. Illness and slow sales are killing his bottom line at Michael McCormick & Sons Gallery, located a few doors north of Taos Plaza.

He has fallen behind in house payments, gas, electricity, gallery rent and insurance and medical bills. But he just managed to keep the gallery doors open and debtors at bay for another four months at least.

"A customer who heard about it all said he felt I needed some help," McCormick said Oct. 1, the same day last week he was to be locked out of his gallery - where he's been for the past 27 years. "He just came in and bought 25 of Bill Baker's paintings. Afterward, the customer said, 'Just think of me as his messenger' - with an emphasis on the 'his'," McCormick said without further elucidation.

McCormick's GoFundMe account and Facebook fundraising posts have also had effect ($9,000 he said from GoFundMe and $8,000 from Facebook - none of which, however, he says he has yet to see in his account to date). But as of press time, he has more breathing room with each dollar or the occasional thousand-dollar donation he's receiving.

"I have lived in Taos, New Mexico, for approximately 47 years working in the art business," he said, adding in his fundraising post, "I started with nothing except for some personal treasures in my backpack when I moved here from Mexico. Today we are the oldest art gallery in Northern New Mexico and quite possibly the state."

Besides Bill Baker, McCormick's stable of past and present artists includes Miguel Martínez, Bill Rane, Joseph Sparks, Michio Takayama, R.C. Gorman, Frank Howell, Veloy Vigil and many, many more.

In addition to being a highly respected gallerist, McCormick is well known in Taos and in many parts of the nation for his work with religious, community and arts fundraising campaigns, many of which he co-founded, such as Taos Spring Arts Celebration; the local Buddhist Temple Hokoji fundraising; and Child-Rite, which raises funds for a nonprofit no-fee adoption agency for special needs children.

"I established an ongoing [Child-Rite] art auction, which one of my clients-turned-special-friend Max Schindler (executive director of the NBC "Today" show) helped promote," McCormick continued, "as did Bill Clinton when we moved the auction to the D.C. area. For a while, we were the largest auction in New Mexico."

McCormick said he really noticed sales declining after the 2016 presidential election, after which things have just not been the same.

"For decades we did quite well financially and then over the last few years, our family has endured various medical problems which has led to grave financial problems," he states in his Facebook post. "Our middle son, Ryoji, died a number of years back in a tragic mountain climbing accident. My wife developed a massive brain tumor which was mostly removed in Japan, but is now growing back. She also has numerous other health problems. I personally flatlined a few years ago and spent a month on dialysis at Denver General Hospital. No insurance. We have been economically pummeled now to the point where I must ask for help."

McCormick's dire straits are not quite what most Taos galleries are experiencing, according to Taos Gallery Association Executive Director David Mapes. Some are doing much better than others he said, but noted that is probably typical of business and the art market in general. But Taos maybe feels it more acutely, being so small and relatively vulnerable to market shifts. He says staying ahead of the curve and offering excitement and change is hard work.

"It seems it gets harder every year. It's not just happening in Taos. But we're the biggest art colony in the Southwest. Over 90 percent of our galleries are artist-owned, selling original works, not mass-produced crap or anything like that."

Mapes noted, too, that Taos galleries were being undervalued by a factor of 10 for their contributions to the local economy, as reported by Taos News reporter Jesse Moya in August.

Greg Moon - of Greg Moon Art Gallery and Studio located across from Mapes' David Anthony Fine Art gallery on Kit Carson Road in the central historic district - said McCormick's difficulties are very sad.

"It's just a damn shame to see an institution that has been around for so long go down after so many years," Moon said, pointing also to the closing of Total Arts and Spirit Runner galleries Dec. 31, 2018. He wonders if a lot of the previously established collector base is not collecting anymore.

"So we just are trying to be nimble in the market and still hold on to what we have here," Moon said. "I really feel bad for Michael." Moon's summer sales were abysmal, he said, but the spring was better due to renewed marketing of Taos Spring Arts that is picking up among galleries.

McCormick said he's hanging tough, hoping and praying his art collection will tide him over this difficult period, as well as his history as a fundraiser, giving freely to needy causes and people.

"My entire life I have lived by our family tenet that 'unto those whom much has been given, much is expected,'" he said. "I have always tithed at least 10 percent of what I've made to my community."

The McCormicks are facing immediate funding of approximately $35,000 in debt. He noted he has vaults of artwork he can work around, much of which can be seen online at mccormickgallery.com/artists or at the gallery, located at 106-C Paseo del Pueblo Norte, open daily, 11 am.-5 p.m.

Email mmccormickgallery@gmail.com or call the gallery at (575) 758-1372.

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