Rene Honored with CT Arts Hero Award

Rene Honored with CT Arts Hero Award

To honor and celebrate individuals who are doing extraordinary things in, for, and through the arts, the Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) established the Connecticut Arts Hero Awards in 2016.

This year, nine artists were honored with this prestigious award, including our very own Rene Soto. The awards were presented as part of COA’s annual Connecticut Arts Day, an annual event designed to inform, inspire and celebrate Connecticut’s investment in the arts.

All Connecticut Arts Heroes were presented with a framed print of the original art — Small State, Big Heart, Great Art —which was created by Hartford Prints! for the Connecticut Office of the Arts. See Rene posing with his print in the image gallery below.

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

– Maya Angelou

Cesar Alvarez Commissioned for “Traffic Graphic” Project

Cesar Alvarez Commissioned for “Traffic Graphic” Project

Congratulations to Cesar Alvarez, our August featured artist, on his recent commission from the Norwalk Arts Commission, to paint an electric box outside of the Wall Street Theater, as part of their public art initiative.

REPOST from The Hour — Cesar and Milena Alvarez stood on opposite sides of a traffic box in an alley beside the Wall Street Theater on Thursday. Painting within the lines of figures sketched the day prior, the husband and wife were meticulously putting the finishing touches on a large-scale representation of one of Cesar Alvarez’s works.

The scale of the project is larger than most of Alvarez’s work, but the quick-drying acrylic paint he was using allowed for speedy work. Though he had moved to Connecticut from his native Colombia in 1999, this was the first public artwork he’d been asked to do in his new home.

“I’ve never done this kind of thing in this country. But in my country I’ve done many things,” Cesar Alvarez said. “And they want to do more here.”

The work of Alvarez is part of an initiative to beautify the Wall Street neighborhood, championed both by Marc Alan (a member of the Wall Street Neighborhood Association and the Arts Commission) and Rene Soto, at whose eponymous gallery Alvarez’s work is displayed.

The traffic box near the theater is the first in what Alan hopes will be a series on the street, following the model of the Norwalk Public Library and the St. Philip Artists’ Guild, each of which did similar beautification of traffic boxes near their buildings.

“It was a multistep process. I put together an assortment of local artists and reviewed their work. The theme was always music and the arts. We wanted to reflect the multicultural diversity of Norwalk,” Alan said. 

There are two more traffic boxes that Alan hopes to have painted sometime in early 2019, though artists need to be found and the right approvals need to be secured.

The theme of the box near the theater is, fittingly, music and art.

For it, Alvarez is enlarging two works inspired by nieces of his, one a ballerina, and the other a singer, that are part of a larger series of paintings called “Playfulness & Tenderness.’

“The playfulness comes from the children. And the tenderness, we wanted to involve these things you do for love and passion,” Milena Alvarez explained.

The idea behind the series is depicting children in environments where technology is not present, in situations that remind Alvarez of his own childhood.

“We want to call the attention of the people to try to give education to the children to do something creative,” Cesar Alvarez said.

Upcoming “Strength Showcase” Featured in CT Post

Upcoming “Strength Showcase” Featured in CT Post

REPOST — Rene Soto is a gallery owner, a magazine editor and an artist. He’s also an immigrant, and a physical education teacher in his home country of Guatemala. He came to America only seven years ago and didn’t have access to simple supplies such as paint and canvas for much of his life. His mother died two years ago, a year after he lost two brothers. Soto’s taken a difficult and unlikely path to Norwalk, and through whatever hardships he has faced, art has helped him persevere.

Weverson Ponte shares Soto’s belief in the ability to transcend fear through art. An architect, Zumba instructor and artist, Ponte organized “Emotional Explosion. A Community Art Project.”

Thank you to The CT Post for a flattering interview of Rene and Weverson Ponte, curator of “Strength Showcase,” which will make its debut at our September Opening Reception. Read the full text here and view photos of the print edition below.

Using a soon-to-be demolished home in Westport as canvas, Ponte and a group of other local artists, including Soto, graffitied their fears onto almost every square inch of the house one day in April. Then, symbolically, the house and fears were torn down.

“Being courageous is not about not having fears, it’s about being able to face your fears. We’re calling this a movement of sorts. We’re trying to encourage people to face their fears and improve their lives,” Ponte said.” – Weverson Ponte.

The next step for the project is a series of community-based art installations of “Strength Showcase,” a fine art exhibit themed on personal growth. On September 1st, “Strength Showcase” will debut at Rene Soto Gallery.

“We want to encourage more artists to create. That makes people happy and we need more happy people in the world,” Soto said. “The whole idea is positivity.” – Rene Soto

. . .

News 12 Interviews Rene

News 12 Interviews Rene

Thank you, News 12 Connecticut, for a flattering interview of founder and owner Rene Soto. See text below and click here to watch the video clip.

NORWALK – A man who made the journey across the United States border eight years ago now owns an art gallery in Norwalk. Most pieces in Rene Soto’s gallery were made by immigrants with ties to countries such as Chile, Ecuador and his native Guatemala.

He says the recent zero-tolerance policy that separates children from their parents is heartbreaking. Soto says children being brought to the U.S., even illegally, were most likely told America would be wonderful, and he says he can only imagine what they are feeling now.

“When they come here to find a jail, when you are just 5 years old…that breaks my heart,” he says.

Soto says he hopes the consulate of Guatemala can offer the kids in custody some comfort, since he thinks art supplies would be especially helpful.

Rene Soto Gallery Grand Opening

Rene Soto Gallery Grand Opening

Norwalk’s newest art space is now officially open! On May 26, 2018, we joined Mayor Harry Rilling, and his wife Lucia, alongside dozens of GNHCC and other community members; for the Grand Opening ceremony of Rene Soto Gallery. The gallery will highlight artists from outside the US, providing the community a chance to see art that might otherwise be inaccessible.

At the Grand Opening, we met the RSG’s first featured artist, José Miguel Muñoz, a Guatemalan painter and clothing designer. He sold several paintings and treated guests to a live painting demonstration. Forthcoming featured artists include: Miguel Puga, Cesar Ovidio Alvarez, Juan Ramiro Torres, and Rich Patton IV, who were also in attendance.
There’s nothing better than watching a person’s dream become reality. Rene Soto’s dream was to provide emerging and established artists a venue to show and sell their art. With the Grand Opening now behind him, and being a large success, he has achieved it, but his work has only just begun. Look forward to more exhibits, events, and educational opportunities at Rene Soto Gallery. Until then, the gallery is open from 12-9pm daily.

Thank you, Rene, for your significant contributions to the community; and to the community, for showing up to support local artists! If you would like to see more photos of the Grand Opening, please visit and *like* Rene Soto Gallery on Facebook. This is where the latest news and events will be announced. If you are not on Facebook, sign up to receive email updates.

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