This evening, February 10, Marcos Torno, owner of the Old Greenwich shop Images on Sound Beach Avenue, will be honored by the Art Society of Old Greenwich as their Volunteer of the Year at their 52nd Annual Winter Art Festival Buffet Dinner at the Riverside Yacht Club.
Torno is a highly visible patron of the arts in Old Greenwich. His shop offers high quality framing and photography restoration -- but one look through the windows and inside his establishment reveals art displayed everywhere.
For the last year, Torno has provided a generous space -- more than two-thirds of his store -- for artists to exhibit and sell their artworks. He has ingenuously divided the area in his shop into 10 sections for this purpose and says that he has provided space for some 18 artists over the last year to display their work (he charges no commissions for their sold art).
The majority of the art currently on display in Images features artist members of the Art Society of Old Greenwich (ASOG).
Torno does a lot for the ASOG says long time member Gretchen Tatge. "Marcos Torno is indefatigable in encouraging the arts in the Old Greenwich-Riverside Community," she said.
Tatge pointed to Torno's annual hosting of the ASOG sculpture show in his shop, "without commissions," she said. And next month he'll judge their ASOG show at the Byram Shubert Library. "He has also volunteered for juried shows for ASOG in the past," said Tatge.
Torno hadn't set out to become a patron of the arts. It just sort of happened. His real dream was to become a tap dancer and it was in 1987 that Torno left his native Sao Paulo, Brazil to come to New York to realize that dream. Working in restaurants he financed his tap dance lessons, but soon surmised his dream was not to be.
So, Torno migrated north and found work in Old Greenwich with camera shop owner Tom Ragland (later First Selectman), whose shop was located in the rear of the present Images. Ragland found Torno a quick study. "He saw how adept I was with customers and their photographs," said Torno. Ragland promptly sent Torno to Chicago to learn framing, and then in 1992 Ragland retired. With an affordable offer from Ragland that he couldn't refuse, Torno became the new owner of Images. He was captivated by the photography business. "I loved the idea that every photograph that comes into my store comes with a story behind it," he said, adding "I love these stories."
But the art-loving side of Torno needed to be addressed as well.
"I've always been surrounded by people involved in some kind of art," he said, "Whether it's dancing, photography, or painting." (And yes, tap is a form of art.)
So, two years later, after Torno increased the size of his store from its rear space to its larger space fronting on Sound Beach Avenue, he offered the rear of his shop to exhibit artists' works. "That was 18 years ago when there were no spaces to exhibit art in Old Greenwich," he said.
With help from an artist client of his, Evelyn Engborg, Torno found the way to use the front of his store for artist exhibitions by moving his merchandise into the middle of the store. "Engborg was the first artist I exhibited there," he said.
He got his idea to create different sections for artist displays on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he visited a gallery that had the different sections. "It gives artist the option to show part of their collections," he said. "And you get more diversity of styles and mediums." His shows now include photographs, acrylics, oils and cartoon art.
"I welcome everybody," he said, "Not just ASOG members. It's really working well."
Torno calls the ASOG a dynamic group. "It creates places for members and non-members to display their art work through competitions and shows," he said. He has also watched their volunteer efforts and learned from them. "You can give some of your time through art," he said. "I enjoy it. It's not work for me. It's mostly having fun every day."
Torno is honored by the "Volunteer of the Year" award ASOG is giving to him, but the bottom line for him is, "I get more from giving than receiving."