Miles Away in Marfa

Continuing our updates on what some of our past PICA interns have been up to, we check in with Raven Falquez Munsell, who moved to Marfa, Texas, last year to work on an internship with the Chinati Foundation.

For the past three months I have woken up to the warm light of the expansive West Texas landscape. I find myself energized by the vastness of the sky and the desert, but also by the warmth and complexity of the community here and the measures taken in order to support a rich cultural community in a town of 2,000. I initially arrived in Marfa thinking mostly about Donald Judd, the impressions he left on this town, as well as his reasons for coming out here: room to breathe, space to work and think. Many others have followed that notion, making this town home and a place think and work creatively. While interning at the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum founded by Judd, I have learned much about Judd’s vision and importantly, have come to realize the range of cultural production currently happening in Marfa.

Usually, the only radio station you can pick up around here is Marfa Public Radio, whose offices are located on the main drag. Their diverse programing includes great national and original local programing as well numerous music shows hosted by members of the community. The Marfa Book Co., a bookstore with a focus on poetry and art books, contributes greatly to the vibrancy of the community. Owners Tim Johnson and Caitlin Murray provide the space for art shows, yoga classes, and music, as well as for readings by visiting Lannan Foundation writers. Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit contemporary arts space, situated in the town’s former 1927 dancehall, brings in temporary exhibitions and a variety of music and art lectures. Ballroom is currently working on building a drive-in movie theater and cultural space just on the outskirts of town and are also responsible for the renowned Prada Marfa. I arrived in Marfa just in time to see the first annual CineMarfa Film Festival, showcasing 1970s No Wave cinema, which was truly a treat, I can’t wait to see what their future programming will be.

For many years, the community has welcomed visiting artists to spend time here and work. One of Marfa’s most charming attributes is in the history told through its architecture, each building has a unique history that is still very close to he surface. The former Ft. D.A. Russell is now home to the Chinati Foundation, Building 98 and other various homes and projects, the Judd Foundation’s collections are housed in old banks and grocery stores, and the former funeral home is now a bar. The various artist residency programs, Chinati, Building 98, the newly founded Fieldwork Marfa, and the Marfa Recording Co. continue to be instrumental in bringing artists and musicians from around the world to work and show their art in Marfa’s repurposed buildings.

Marfa has a small, transient community and the people who are here work very hard to keep this place thriving. While I am sad to leave Marfa, I am incredibly grateful for the time I have spent here.


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