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Blackwell School Alliance


Education for children in Marfa of Mexican descent dates from 1889, when the former Methodist church became a schoolhouse. The school, named for longtime principal Jesse Blackwell, served hundreds of Hispanic children up to ninth grade. The school closed in 1965 with the integration to Marfa Schools. The building sat vacant until preservation efforts by the Blackwell School Alliance, formed in 2006. The one-story schoolhouse has a modified hip roof, front-gabled entry, and plastered 24-inch thick adobe walls on a stone foundation.

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Blackwell School Alliance


Education for children in Marfa of Mexican descent dates from 1889, when the former Methodist church became a schoolhouse. The school, named for longtime principal Jesse Blackwell, served hundreds of Hispanic children up to ninth grade. The school closed in 1965 with the integration to Marfa Schools. The building sat vacant until preservation efforts by the Blackwell School Alliance, formed in 2006. The one-story schoolhouse has a modified hip roof, front-gabled entry, and plastered 24-inch thick adobe walls on a stone foundation.

The Hotel Paisano

Lodging

A nice mix of accommodations is available in the Marfa area, including a 1931 Pueblo-Deco-style restored hotel; a sleek and contemporary motor-court-style motel; an economy motel; a Victorian-style bed and breakfast; and a variety of vacation rental apartments, studios, cottages, rustic guest ranches, and RV parks.

The Get Go

Shopping

Whether you are looking for that one of a kind piece of jewelry, a very special book or something out of the ordinary, Marfa’s retailers doors are open and welcome you. Retailers here in Marfa vary from those that are second and third generation to those who have just opened their doors, but either way each has something very special to offer the Marfa visitor.

The Chinati Foundation

things to do

Have you ever been gliding? When was the last time you watched a movie outdoors with a starry sky for your canopy? Are you a hunter? Do you love the arts? All of these things you can experience and more when you are in Marfa. Come and experience it for yourself!

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History


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History


In the Beginning

Marfa was founded in the early 1880s as a railroad water stop. The town was named "Marfa" at the suggestion of the wife of a railroad executive. Although some historians have hypothesized that the name came from a character in the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel The Brothers Karamazov, etymologist Barry Popik found that Marfa was actually named after Marfa Strogoff, a character in the Jules Verne novel Michael Strogoff. The town grew quickly during the 1920s.

The Marfa Army Airfield served as a training facility for several thousand pilots during World War II, including the American actor Robert Sterling, before closing in 1945. The base was also used as the training ground for many of the United States Army's chemical mortar battalions.

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Art & Culture


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Art & Culture


Minimalism Arrives

The area around Marfa is known as a cultural center for contemporary artists and artisans. In 1971, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City. After renting summer houses for a couple of years, he bought two large hangars and some smaller buildings and began to permanently install his art. While this started with his building in New York, the buildings in Marfa allowed him to install his works on a larger scale. In 1976, he bought the first of two ranches that would become his primary places of residence, continuing a long love affair with the desert landscape surrounding Marfa. Later, with assistance from the Dia Art Foundation in New York, Judd acquired decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell, and began transforming the fort's buildings into art spaces in 1979. Judd's vision was to house large collections of individual artists' work on permanent display, as a sort of anti-museum. Judd believed the prevailing model of a museum, where art is shown for short periods of time, does not allow the viewer an understanding of the artist or their work as they intended.

Since Judd's death in 1994, two foundations have worked to maintain his legacy: the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation. Every year the Chinati Foundation holds an open house event where artists, collectors, and enthusiasts come from around the world to visit Marfa's art. Since 1997, Open House has been co-sponsored by both foundations and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. In 2008, the Chinati Foundation changed the format of the Open House weekend, eliminating various events. This significantly reduced the number of visitors. The Chinati Foundation now occupies more than 10 buildings at the site and has on permanent exhibit work by artists such as Ingólfur Arnarson, Dan Flavin, and Claes Oldenburg.

In recent years, a new wave of artists has moved to Marfa to live and work. As a result, new gallery spaces have opened in the downtown area. The Crowley Fountation theater and its theater annex host public events with seating for over 175 as a public service to nonprofit foundations. Furthermore, The Lannan Foundation has established a writers-in-residency program, a Marfa theater group has formed, and a multifunctional art space called Ballroom Marfa has begun to show art films, host musical performances, and exhibit other art installations. The city is also 37 miles (60 km) from Prada Marfa, a pop art exhibit, and is home to Cobra Rock Boot Company and The Wrong Store.

Building 98, also located in Marfa, is a project of the International Woman's Foundation, which has operated an artist-in-residency program since 2002. The International Woman's Foundation was responsible for placing Fort D.A. Russell on the National Register of Historic Places as an effort to preserve the historic importance of the site. The facility's studio galleries host artists who desire to exhibit work in the region at a premier venue. In late September 2012 through early April 2013, the foundation held a major retrospective of the works of Wilhelmina Weber Furlong at Building 98 featuring over 75 unseen works of the early American woman modernist. Building 98 is located at historic Fort D. A. Russell; it is the home of Marfa's German POW murals. The facility also features the George Sugarman sculpture courtyard.

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Marfa Lights


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Marfa Lights


The Flickering Distance

Outside of Donald Judd and modern art, Marfa may be most famous for the Marfa lights, visible on clear nights between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when one is facing southwest (toward the Chinati Mountains). According to the Handbook of Texas Online, "... at times they appear colored as they twinkle in the distance. They move about, split apart, melt together, disappear, and reappear. Presidio County residents have watched the lights for over a hundred years. The first historical record of them dates to 1883. Presidio County has built a viewing station nine miles east of town on US 67 near the site of the old air base. Each year, enthusiasts gather for the annual Marfa Lights Festival. The lights have been featured and mentioned in various media, including the television show Unsolved Mysteries and an episode of King of the Hill ("Of Mice and Little Green Men") and in an episode of Disney Channel Original Series So Weird. A book by David Morrell, 2009's The Shimmer, was inspired by the lights. The Rolling Stones mention the "lights of Marfa" in the song "No Spare Parts" from the 2011 re-release of their 1978 album Some Girls.