The Afterlife of a Military Base: Chinati in Marfa, Texas

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Photograph by Scott Hillier, Flickr

On a stretch of 340 miles near the city of Marfa, Tex., sits Fort D. A. Russell, formerly known as Camp Marfa. Established in 1911, the fort took on several roles during World War II: acting as an air base, home for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), and a camp for German prisoners of war. Fort D. A. Russell closed in 1945, and the Corps of Engineers inherited it in 1946. Since then, most of the land has been divided and sold to local parties.

But artist Donald Judd reclaimed the fractured territory, purchasing those 340 acres of land with help from the Dia Art Foundation in the 1970s (along with his rental of a house in Marfa). Though long abandoned, Fort D. A. Russell was reincarnated as a contemporary art campus, dubbed Chinati, dedicated to permanent large-scale artistic works. One of the two renovated buildings now houses Judd’s numerous aluminum pieces.

Photograph by informedmindstravel, Flickr

Judd placed a lot of importance on the relationship between an artistic installation and its surroundings. At Chinati, this relationship is where a work of art settles as a place of art.

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Interested in Marfa, Texas, and the creative community growing and settling there? See this video by Etsy (discovered via Swissmiss).

Comment (1)

  1. The International Woman’s Foundation a 501(c)3 not for profit public foundation founded in 2002, is located directly across the street from the Chinati Foundation at 705 West Bonnie Street. It was built between 1895 (the historic ballroom) and finished in 1920. It was and is known as Building 98. It was the BOQ for officers and the entertainment center which includes the 1912 Historic Officer’s Club Bar and 2200 square foot Historic Building 98 Ballroom. During WWII German POW’s, Hans Jurgen Press and Robert Hampel, painted floor to ceiling murals in the huge Gala Dining Room and Library within Building 98. Building 98, is now considered U.S. Heritage Tourism site. The German POW Murals are the largest collection of their kind still in existence in the USA and are listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a “National Historic Place “and by the Texas Historical Commission as a “Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.” Building 98 at old Fort Russell is located in the heart of the Big Bend Country. It is a 12, 000 square foot historic structure built entirely of adobe and is located on 4 acres. It is the headquarters of the International Woman’s Foundation artist in residence program and venue for art, music and healthful aging (Yoga, Tai Chi, Health Seminars, Retreats, etc.) events.

    Building 98 Tours are conducted by professional docents by reservation.

    For more information:
    432 729 4826
    432 729 1852
    432 386 8212

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