New grant to Judd Foundation could paint a clearer picture of Donald Judd

Papers from the archives of Donald Judd.

MARFA – A recently awarded grant given to the Judd Foundation promises over $155,000 in funding that will go toward improving the preservation, cataloguing and archiving of papers belonging to Donald Judd.

The 384 linear feet of documents that will be addressed by the grant are currently housed in the foundation’s print building on Highland Avenue in Marfa. Through the process, they will be preserved for years to come and made more readily accessible to researchers, offering new insights into Judd’s work, life and time in Marfa.

The NEH grant to Judd Foundation is one of 225 given to cultural organizations across the country and is one of only 34 projects to receive the award within the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program.

Caitlin Murray, the foundation’s director of archives and programs, is starting planning for the grant this week, and part of that entails beginning the process of hiring a full time project archivist for two years to join her in Marfa.

Under the grant application, Murray and the project archivist will work on the “arrangement, description, rehousing, and creation of a finding aid for 384 linear feet of documents, manuscripts, correspondence, catalogs, meeting minutes, and ephemera related to the life and work of artist Donald Judd.”

Processing this part of the archive, the Donald Judd Papers, has meaning for both researchers and everyday visitors to Judd Foundation. “All of these records are reflective of how he was making his work, so processing [the archive] means organizing that material and documenting it,” which Murray said helps researchers and scholars more readily understand what is available in the archive and how to find it. But it also means taking care of the physical paper, which might otherwise deteriorate over time.

“In addition to providing extensive materials related to Judd’s innovative and influential art practice, the Donald Judd Papers provide understanding of the artist’s intersecting interests, in particular the relationship between his art and activism, the scope of his design and architectural activities, and his lasting impact on the civic and economic life of the City of Marfa and the SoHo neighborhood of New York City,” the foundation stated in its announcement of the grant.

While the archive holds many documents on Judd’s well known artwork, there are also records related to his time on the board of visitors at the McDonald Observatory, for example. 

When those are more accessible, there is a broader understanding of how Judd became a community member in West Texas and participated in other activities in the area. “I think that those kinds of stories that really flesh out who he was as a West Texan are really important for us to be engaging with and to be telling the public,” said Murray.

Thousands of visitors travel through Judd Foundation in Marfa and SoHo each year to learn more about Judd, and they stand to benefit from the completion of the work through this grant too.

“People are always asking, ‘Why did Judd come to Marfa?’” Murray explained. “The more we open up and better understand the archive, the more we can answer the questions that people visiting and in town want to know.”

“For us, it’s really crucial that our programmatic team and visitor’s service team is able to access this information and incorporate all the new learning into our daily visit program, both to enrich our own activities and to make sure we are really presenting an interesting and full picture,” she said.

“Even though there is so much known about Judd’s life and work, there’s still a lot we have yet to learn, really dig into and understand,” Murray said. “So much information is still in the archive, waiting to be organized and then be discovered.”