Garman relishes next 2 years
Recently diagnosed terminal illness led to business closure plan

       The reason Michael Garman has decided to shut down his business in Old Colorado City is that he has only two years to live. With some of his scenes and characters as a backdrop, Michael Garman answers questions from local media during 
a press conference inside his gallery in Old Colorado City Aug. 11.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The revelation emerged from a press conference Aug. 11 at the Michael Garman Gallery, 2418 W. Colorado Ave. A press release states that the 70-year-old world- famous sculptor was “recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure” by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, N.Y., and given a “two-year terminal prognosis.”
       Because of that condition, he cannot even live at high alititude anymore. Garman told a group of reporters that he plans to spend as much of his final time as possible with his family and traveling internationally. That seems preferable to keeping the business running, because as much as he might want to step back, he admitted that he would not be able to keep himself from working on it.
       He will keep sculpting, however, possibly focusing on scenes from “my old wino days,” he said.
       The business, which has been in Old Town since 1975, will end wholesale production of the Garman sculptures Nov. 1 and retail production Dec. 31. The store will stay open until the inventory is gone, Garman said.
       The shutdown will help him “simplify my life,” he explained, then added with a grin that in his travels, “I want to go back to some of the places that I hell-raised.”
       He does plan to visit the store two more times this year - Sept. 6-7 and Nov. 22-23, “to personally speak with customers, sign sculptures and thank local residents for their belief in his creativity and talent,” the press release states.
       During the conference, Garman recalled a sculpting career that goes back 56 years. “Making my little characters and little scenes, it's been a great joy to do that,” he said. “Life has a been a ball, quite a party.”
       His biographer, Mary S. Koehler, has written that Garman's art career took off as a result of a trip to Mexico in the late 1950s. The central Texas native started out with just $30 and a plan to be gone two weeks. “Two years later, the young man had traveled all the way to Santiago, Chile,” Koehler writes. “He survived on his wits as a street hustler, telling stories and offering to create portraits of the people he met… He began sculpting heads and figures and selling them door to door. When he finally reached Santiago, Michael enrolled in an art school. Little did he know that those years as a penniless traveler would define a new genre in American art.”
       Only at one point in the 15-minute conference did Garman reveal emotion. Asked by a TV reporter what was the “hardest thing” about his decision, he responded, “Not being able to finish what I wanted to do.” There followed a few silent moments while he regathered himself.
       The only uncertainty is what will happen with Magic Town, a walk-through experience with old-time scenes and seedy characters that has been a featured attraction at the gallery for many years. Calling it “the big dream of my life that I never finished,” Garman summed up the matter: “I never had a plan in my life. It [a Magic Town resolution] will happen.”
       Despite the closure announcement and related plans, Garman left open a glimmer of hope that the business could yet carry on. His son, Michael P. Garman - who learned the sculpting style from his father, created several of the pieces sold in the store and was its general manager for five years until last December - recently told the Westside Pioneer he would like to buy the business. Asked about this at the press conference, the elder Garman said he has received no formal offer and that he himself has rejected the idea of keeping it in the family because of fears of prompting unpleasant competition. But when pressed as to whether he would consider a formal offer from his son if it were tendered, Garman said, “Possibly.”

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