The couple were joined by a large group of friends and family for the presentation of a Recognition and Achievement Award at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Wednesday (April 29).
The ceremony in a packed Council Chamber was hosted by Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon who paid tribute to Mackenzie’s achievements in the art world and his contribution to life in Middlesbrough.
The event also marked Mr Mallon’s final public engagement as the town’s elected Mayor, a post he has held through three elections since May, 2002.
Mackenzie was the first of seven children, growing up in a two-bed terrace on St Paul’s Road, before moving to the new Beechwood Estate with parents Maureen and Ray as a toddler.
Mackenzie, who is dyslexic and was labelled ‘thick and lazy’, left school without qualifications but his compulsion to draw was evident from an early age.
After failing to get into the army, he took on a range of unskilled manual jobs including a spell at Smith’s Dock, before knocking on the door of Cleveland College of Art and Design in 1977.
He met his future wife Susan in 1978 before being accepted at the Byam Shaw College of Art in London where he would study for a BA and set out on his career as an artist.
A spell in London was followed by a return North which saw the couple establish a gallery in Richmond which exists to this day.
After a couple of years living in San Francisco the Thorpes settled in Brighton, although much of his artistic focus and inspiration is focused on his childhood in Middlesbrough.
The 58-year-old has exhibited all over the world to considerable acclaim, and his pieces are highly sought after, with notable collectors including Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, politician William Hague and film director Cameron Mackintosh.
He has also produced special commissions for individuals and institutions including the Elton John Aids Foundation, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne’s Foundation and the British Dyslexia Foundation.
He fulfilled a long-held ambition in 2010 with the first major presentation of his work in his home town at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum.
He undertook a signing of his latest book ‘Out of the Shadows’ at the Dorman Museum last year and recently unveiled a brand new series of posters for Middlesbrough’s historic railway station, reflecting the town’s history and heritage and its sense of optimism for the future.
Mackenzie and Susan have been married for 35 years and have two children Owen, 31, and Chloe, 29, both of whom are now married.
Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: “This Recognition and Achievement Award is presented on behalf of Mackenzie’s home town and marks a truly exceptional life and career.
“Over more than three decades he has done a huge amount for the town as an ambassador right around the globe, and the town owes him a debt of gratitude for that.
“His paintings have not only brought a great deal of enjoyment and pleasure to a great many people over the years, but they also reflect the huge pride he has in the town, its people and its history.
“He is a passionate advocate for Middlesbrough and I have no doubt that he will continue to tell the town’s story to a worldwide audience for many years to come.”
Mackenzie said: “Middlesbrough never fails to inspire me, so this recognition from my home town is a real honour.
“There’s real sense of optimism in the town at the moment, so I was particularly pleased to be able to display some of my work at Middlesbrough Station recently.
“Susan and I are strong believers that art is for everyone, and we will to continue to promote Middlesbrough on a national and international stage.
“This town has given me a strong sense of community, a sense of humour and the commitment to keep going even when the odds are stacked against you, and those are qualities that I will continue to bring to my work.”