October 9, 2019 830 PM
MARFA — On October 8, 1987, a small notice addressed “to the citizens of Marfa and Presidio County” ran in English and Spanish inside this paper.
“Chinati Foundation is pleased to invite each of you to attend our opening on October 10,” the notice read. “Many of you have been curious about our project; please join us for the afternoon to tour the facilities and stay for dinner.”
The notice was for the first Chinati Weekend, originally known as “Open House.” Now, as the 32nd one kicks into gear, it’s worth remembering how Marfa got here — from quiet ranching community and a water stop for trains, to a bustling international arts destination.
It’s been decades since the first Chinati Weekend, and longer still since Judd moved here in the 1970s to sculpt and make art. In the time since, Marfa has become an art hub. What a difference one person can make.
As Marfa’s stature has grown, so has Chinati Weekend. While larger and more diverse crowds now turn out to Marfa each October to celebrate, the purpose of the event “has remained the same: to bring together friends and visitors from far away and nearby for a weekend-long celebration of art and culture,” David Tompkins, a writer for Chinati Foundation, told The Big Bend Sentinel in an email.
The event is a “signature cultural event in West Texas,” replete with “a lively mix of scholarly talks, musical performances, and special exhibitions,” Tompkins wrote. If you’re here for the weekend, perhaps you agree.
Donald Judd was born in Missouri in 1928 and spent years in New York City, where he ultimately passed away in 1994. But he was long drawn to the wide-open desert landscape of the American Southwest — working first in Baja California and Arizona before finding a home in Far West Texas.
He first saw the Marfa area in 1946, on his way from Alabama to California for military duty in Korea. He was “unable to forget it,” Rudi Fuchs, former director of the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands and a longtime friend of Judd, wrote in 1987. “That hard, clear landscape which in itself is already a sculpture.”