VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s Caroline Hogan
In the midst of a gray day in the West Bottoms, there's a pop of color that brings the streets to life. It's called Monarca Art Space, MÁS KC for short.
"This has been my dream come true having my own space to create," said Vania Soto, the founder and owner of the half-gallery, half-boutique.
It's nearly impossible to miss the Monarch butterflies at the studio.
"Me being an immigrant, a lot of us use the Monarch butterfly as a representation of the immigrant flying from one place to another to have a better opportunity," Soto said. "I want this to be a place for people to have other opportunities as well."
Having a shop gives Soto the chance to do just that.
"I had friends that also made different kinds of art that are more wearable art like the earrings, so they were like how can we exhibit?" Soto said. "So this is just an extension of the gallery floor."
Her culture shines in every corner of the store and in her own pieces.
"If you think of anything that has to do with Hispanic heritage, it’s very colorful, very bright, very celebrations, so that's what I kind of focus on with my artwork," she said.
Soto created the gallery she always wanted to for herself and others.
"All of my artwork is very culturally inclined and so it didn’t fit in with a lot of other existing galleries that were looking for a particular look," she said.
But all are welcome to show off their art at MÁS KC, Soto insists. It's the art that matters, not age, race or where you are from.
"I like to give opportunities to artists that are just starting out," she said. "I like to be their first walls."
One of those artists whose work is on the gallery floor is Marlie Ann Escoto
Escoto's series, "In Search of my Own Garden," is the gallery's feature for October.
"Immediately, it was a no-brainer for me to move forward with Vania and help her in whatever way she needs," Escoto said. "Because when somebody in our community succeeds, we all succeed."
On the store shelves, customers can find brands like Hecho KC, whose hats and shirts tell the story of what it means to be an immigrant in Kansas City.
"Yeah, we’re Hispanic, but we’re also part of this culture, we’re also here and we’ve been here for the longest," said brand ambassador Alondra Ortuno. Her aunts create the designs.
"So, just 'cause we’re Hispanic, doesn’t mean we’re just Hispanic."
All these creators and artists would not have a voice if it weren't for Soto.
"Our common language for everyone is art and so it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can look at the same piece of artwork and if it moves you, that’s what art is," she said.
If Soto had to paint the picture of her future it includes more galleries, more artists and more color in Kansas City.
"Really [a] cultural gathering regardless of what your culture is," she said.
Soto is debuting her first piece of art at the Nelson Atkins Museum on Saturday, October 14.