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Library Dedicates Artist's Weaving To Retiring Mayor Marvin Reed

Candace Braun

Almost 300 residents and area officials gathered at Princeton University's Rockefeller College on Tuesday, December 16 to say farewell and thanks to Borough Mayor Marvin Reed in a ceremony sponsored by the Borough, the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Princeton University.

Those who attended laughed and reminisced about the mayor's 13 years working with the community. Others, including the Princeton Public Library's Board of Trustees, showed their appreciation through gifts.

In honor of the mayor's years of service to the Board, the library has dedicated a weaving by Princeton artist Armando Sosa to the mayor. The work will be displayed at the new renovated library, with a plaque dedicated to the mayor.

The weaving will feature scenes from Mr. Sosa's hometown village in Salcaja, Guatemala. It will incorporate some of the artist's childhood memories, such as flying a kite with his father, as well as reflect his culture, with a scene of women dancing in colorful costumes in the central plaza. Mr. Sosa, a former Princeton resident, is one of seven artists that have been commissioned by the library's art council to create works of art to "beautify" the library, said Nancy Russell, who heads the library's art committee.

"We came up with what we feel is a really great group of artists," said Ms. Russell. "We have a nice diversity of art that will make the library a beautiful place."

Along with Mr. Sosa, a current Hopewell resident, other artists include Ik Joong Kang of New York City, Faith Ringgold of Englewood, Tom Nussbaum of Montclair, Katherine Kackl of Lambertville, Buzz Spector of Ithaca, NY, and Margaret K. Johnson of Princeton.

Culturally Diverse Artist

Mr. Sosa's work of art, measuring 36" wide and 6' long, was chosen to be dedicated to the mayor because, "members of the Board noticed the mayor's face light up when he saw it," said Ms. Russell. She said he had admired Mr. Sosa's work from the first time he saw examples of it.

Mr. Sosa's weaving is a family trade and characteristic of his culture and village. He grew up learning weaving from his father. Weaving was done together as a family, said Mr. Sosa, with each person contributing to the process in one way or another. The artist began spinning and dyeing when he was eight years old, then later moved on to learn the actual process of weaving with cotton and wool when he was 15, apprenticing with his uncle.

Most weaving looms had four harnesses, and were used to make clothing for women, or blankets for infants. However, when Mr. Sosa was 16 years old, he went to live with another uncle in Guatemala City, where he learned to weave with 33 harnesses. That same year, Mr. Sosa's talent began taking him on new experiences around the world.

In October 1970, Mr. Sosa gave a weaving exhibition at the Texas State Fair. Three years later, he was invited to San Diego under the sponsorship of Assistance, Inc. There he exhibited his work and gave demonstrations in various locations in the city. He was offered a job teaching weaving at the University of California, but had to decline due to family obligations at home.

In 1994, Mr. Sosa went to state fairs in Oregon and Washington to give weaving exhibits, once again under the sponsorship of Assistance, Inc. Soon after he became involved in various other handwork, including textiles, wood, and furniture. He studied for a year in Antigua, and then spent a month in San Salvador demonstrating what he had learned.

Later trips took him to Panama, the Trade Fair of the Americas in Miami, Fl., Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Mexico.

Mr. Sosa did not return to weaving or to the United States for almost 20 years. However in 1993 he moved to Princeton, where he was encouraged to begin his craftsmanship again. Relying only on memory, in three months he built a loom by hand, which is 38 inches wide, and creates 38 threads per inch. His work is known for combining traditional Central American motifs with contemporary colors and designs.

Today, Mr. Sosa teaches weaving at the YMCA Princeton, where he has been exhibiting his work since 1997. He will also teach a weaving class at the Hunterdon Museum of Art in April, as well as exhibit his work there from March through June. In addition, he will be displaying his work at Rutgers University in Newark next year.

Mr. Sosa said he is very grateful for the opportunity to create a weaving for the new library in town.

"I want to thank everyone for giving me this opportunity to show my work," he said.

The artist said that through this experience he will be recognized by the government as an artist of extraordinary ability, which will enable him to receive a green card to live in the United States.

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