Library pays tribute to Branchville SoHo Gallery

The art that used to hang at the Branchville SoHo Gallery of Contemporary Art will be seen collectively once more before the pieces are sold and added to new collections.

Paula Reens, who died last month, owned the gallery until the building was sold some years ago. She and her husband Lou Reens, Wilton residents for 49 years, made a decision to have the remaining paintings from the Ridgefield gallery displayed at Wilton Library and sold to the community. The library be the beneficiary of 100% of the proceeds.

The public will be able to see 50 paintings of some of America’s well-regarded contemporary artists at the opening reception of The Branchville SoHo Gallery Estate Art Exhibition on Friday, June 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the library. Artists such as Ben Benn (1884-1983), Jack Youngerman (b. 1926), Marvin Hayes (b. 1939; lived in Wilton 1965-1991) and Robert Heindel (1938–2005), among others will be featured.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these paintings in one place,” said Ed MacEwen, Wilton Library’s art chairman. Through the generosity of Lou and Paula, before her passing, this exhibition came together as a love letter to their gallery and to the library. They wanted to see these paintings enjoyed by others and to have the library benefit 100%.

“It was a thrill putting this exhibition together,” he continued. “It was tantamount to working on a giant jigsaw puzzle because all the paintings were not easily identified. I was fortunate enough to have Petra Saldutti working with me and using her own art background to uncover and discover the provenance of many of the paintings, including the Branchville building itself.”

According to a press release Paula Reens wrote about the Branchville gallery, it started in the 1700s and 1800s “as a cow barn and dairy depot dug into the hillside.” It served as a stop along the way from Norwalk to Danbury where milk was stored. It became the oldest tenement house when in the 1850s the Danbury & Norwalk line bought the property from the farmer and started to put workers in the newly constructed rooms above the depot.  Over time it was a grocery store and a “speak-easy” during Prohibition, and then it fell into disrepair and ruin. In the 1980s, the Reens were involved in the reconstruction and owned the Branchville SoHo Gallery of Contemporary art for the next 20 years.

The exhibition will run through Thursday, June 29. The Reens were hoping each and every last painting would go to a home or office where the art could be appreciated. To accomplish that goal, the paintings and prints are being moderately priced.

Information: or 203-762-6334.