April 15, 2022 By Michael Weymouth
Those who frequented the South Street Gallery in Hingham no doubt fondly remember the gallery manager Kate Sotolova, a transplant from the Czech Republic whose welcoming and effervescent personality drew many customers to the frame shop while she was there.
After spending 20 years in the States, Kate returned to the Czech Republic three years ago, to her hometown of Nachod, in the Eastern part of the country, where she now teaches English. In her spare time, she uses her nimble fingers to guide puppets in the town’s puppet theater. A skill she picked up from her father, whose voice still lives on as part of the production.
Still Kate’s connection to Hingham runs deep. “Hingham is my second home. I worked there for over 18 years and lived there for over 14 years. I am very thankful for having my job at the Gallery and to Jack Hobbs, the director, because it made me be part of the community which I loved and I gained the sense of belonging there. I met wonderful people and became friends with many. When I decided to enter another chapter of my life and move back to my home country, I was sure to stay in touch with Hingham friends and come back for visits. And in addition to being close to some local people, I continue to receive painting commissions from across the ocean and that totally makes me feel I am very near, despite the six-hour difference.”
Kate is perhaps most known for her pet portraits, a talent she has perfected over the years. She has a growing list of customers in her home country, but she also continues to have many commissions here in Hingham.
Hingham resident Mark Cullings has commissioned two Kate portraits of his Corgis,“We all miss Kate. Her portrait of my first Welsh Corgi, done when she was just beginning, made such an impression that despite her return to the Czech Republic I wanted her to paint Tarzan. Kate has a gift of being able to bring her subject’s soul to her canvas, and I’m proud to have another Sotolova in the house.”
Hingham architect and artist Vcevy Strekalovsky recalls Kate’s time in Hingham, “by the time Kate arrived at the South Street Gallery as Gallery Manager and framer extraordinaire she had become a member of the Hingham community as house sitter, babysitter and dog sitter with a wide circle of friends. She immersed herself in the art world, contributing to publicity for the Gallery, involving herself in workshops and becoming renowned as a painter of pet portraits. For artist demos she was a favorite subject of mine! Her reputation upon her return to the Czech Republic, where she has continued to take on commissions and exhibit in shows, has become international! On Instagram she is known as “PaintsDogs”! She misses us and we miss her, and a return visit by this cheerful and talented woman would be most welcome.”
Kate says she owes a debt of gratitude to Hingham resident Jane Carr whom she met almost twenty years ago when she was a frequent customer at the Gallery, together with her late husband, Alan. “As the years went by, we became more than just acquaintances, and I couldn’t thank her enough for her generosity.” The good-bye party she organized for me two weeks prior to my leaving was simply exceptional. I will always be grateful.”
Jane Carr recalls the first time she met Kate at the South Street Gallery, “I needed some help reframing some family treasure of little value except emotional. Kate was patient and creative. When I found out she needed a place to live and I had purchased an investment property in my neighborhood, I offered her a lease which lasted 11 years. The ideal tenant, becoming a dear friend, like a daughter, it was so sad for me when she decided to return to the Czech Republic. Her parents and sister had visited Hingham and we had a fun time with them.”
“Kate became a dear friend,” said Jane Carr, “like a daughter, it was so sad for me when she decided to return to the Czech Republic.”
Jane recalls the farewell party she and Jack and Marge Hobbs gave Kate, “it was a bonanza of artists from all over the South Shore gathering to show their affection for this gallery manager, framer par excellence, artist in her own right, charming, beautiful, enthusiastic and accomplished.”
Kate says she is looking forward to visiting Hingham this summer to catch up with old friends and renew her relationship with a town she has great memories of. “I remember so well the downtown area and the Hingham harbor and running randomly into people and familiar faces. And I can’t forget Nona’s ice-cream!”
Kate is perhaps most known for her pet portraits, a talent she has perfected over the years, with a growing list of customers in her home country. But she also continues to have many commissions here in Hingham. To view more Kate pet portraits go to www.katesotolova.com