NPR’s Morning Edition profiles Marfa, Texas and the Chinati Foundation. Even though the Texas town is known for its artists, Donald Judd, whose installation on an abandoned Army base first brought the artists to town, would not have approved of the town’s organic success as a tourist destination. NPR Explains:
Marfa is the kind of place where people actually want to live. But the lack of a hospital weeds out retirees. And young families with kids are deterred by corporal punishment in the public school. So the artsy population is limited: to the wealthy with their part-time homes, temporary residents on prestigious fellowships from such places as the Lannan Foundation, and the truly hardcore.
Tim Johnson, who runs the town’s art-focused book store, gets to the heart of the matter:
“He thought that making an arts-based cultural tourism was necessarily carnivalesque, which was, for him, anathema to the experience of art,” he explains. “He knew that people would come see it, but he did not want that to be a large part of the economy, because he thought, socially, that would have a negative impact.”
Judd did dream about art helping Marfa’s economy, but his ideas were somewhat more pragmatic, says Rob Weiner, who directs the Chinati Foundation.
“At one point, even bottling the local water, which is terrific water,” he says. “And he had designed a kind of complex series of bottles that could be turned into bricks once the water was consumed.”
That never happened, but arts tourism has soared. Weiner estimates the Chinati Foundation received 10- or 11,000 visitors last year, more than twice as many as eight years ago. But he seemed a little offended when asked how marketing has changed.
Marfa, Texas: An Unlikely Art Oasis in a Desert Town (NPR/Morning Edition)