Ruben Marroquin’s Studio in the Bridgeport Arcade

Ruben Marroquin is an American born (Chicago 1979), Venezuelan Artist specializing in textiles. He lives and works both in Bridgeport and Brooklyn. He facilitates outreach weaving programs for youth and adults in  Bridgeport, New York, and New Haven. This includes  an ongoing weekly weaving program for Bridgeport YMCA residents sponsored by a community partnership of City Lights & Company and ALPHA Community Services-YMCA. Ruben also makes art and offers weaving classes in his Bridgeport studio in the Arcade Mall, 1001 Main St. Downtown Bridgeport, CT. 

In 2011, Ruben Marroquin was the recipient of the Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Scholarship, and attended a semester at the École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI, les Ateliers) in Paris, France, with a concentration in weaving.

It is in Ruben Marroquin’s studio in Bridgeport’s Arcade that traditional and cutting-edge both find a comfortable home.

To those he teaches at the YMCA or in his Bridgeport studio, he is an expert traditional weaver who has a passion for sharing his skills with his students. He’s also known for his custom hand-woven pieces — such as wall hangings, table runners, rugs and place mats — for interior designers.

And in the world of fine arts, he’s considered a textile master — and innovator.

The Arcade, an 1889 Ornamental Gothic Revival iron-and-glass structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a celebration of Victorian mores, in which embroidery and weaving were championed. Enter Marroquin’s studio, and its looms (from a tabletop to a huge computerized model) seem to be perfectly suited to the storied surroundings. In contrast, most wall space is devoted to Marroquin’s avant-garde, three-dimensional sculptures and embroidery, which he views “simply as paintings.”

Both, he said, represent important facets of who he is as an artist and teacher. Born in Chicago and raised in his mother’s homeland of Venezuela, the artist divides his time between Bridgeport and Brooklyn, N.Y., where he spends many weekends “networking” with other artists.

Marroquin said he came to the arts as a youngster.

“Painting was what I loved to do,” he said. “It was by chance that I came to textiles — I ran out of paint and there was no money for more. So I started sewing together pieces of old rags,” creating collages of sorts.

After a few years living and bartending in Mexico City (where, he said, ironically, he would have difficulty as an American getting all the required work permits), he decided the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York would be his goal. Not only was he admitted, he stayed for five years and “became obsessed with weaving.” So much so that he won a FIT scholarship to spend six months in Paris to learn many advanced techniques, such as the complex art of jacquard weaving.

“I’m just fascinated by it and the mathematics involved,” he said. “Weaving is painstaking, very challenging, requiring a lot of patience,” which he said complements his character. “And it’s a lot of fun.”

For his wall sculptures, Marroquin combines cotton, linen and bamboo fibers with modern industrial cords (known as paracords) and other materials. He creates mass by laying fibers over fibers, often applying the fibers over “structures,” such as pieces of wood. His color palette seems to rival the rainbow.

In July, one of Marroquin’s embroidery and collage paintings, a map of New York, will be featured in “Game Changers: Fiber Art Masters and Innovators” at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass. The work will be on view for about five months in the invitational show.

Since Marroquin’s students receive a great deal of one-on-one instruction, he usually doesn’t conduct group classes for adults. He prefers to have prospective students call to arrange for a series of classes that are suitable to their particular needs.

“I have a husband and wife from Stratford who come every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. They wanted something nice to do together,” he said. “It’s a good experience for us all. It’s quiet here, and they have an opportunity to really focus on their own projects … and I work on mine. And I am always here to help or guide them.”

Youngsters are a different story. “I bring several portable looms to classrooms and many have no idea” what the contraptions do, he said. Each student has an opportunity to work the loom for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

“Whether it’s with men or women or children, there seems to be a great sense of satisfaction that comes from weaving, from creating something with your own hands that you can keep, or give to family and friends, or sell.”

The Arcade, 1001 Main St., Bridgeport. Ruben Marroquin Art Studio is on the second floor and is open afternoons Tuesday through Friday and by appointment.; 917-533-2276.; Twitter: PhyllisASBoros

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