Miles from nowhere, Marfa, Texas, was barely a speck on the map when the artist Donald Judd first rented a house there in 1971. A three hour drive from the nearest airport, it sits at the intersection of US 90 and 67 on a great highland plain, at an altitude of almost 5000 feet. This post focuses on everything not Judd and/or Chinati related, which will be covered in the next installment. When you schedule your visit, be sure to allow time to wander around the streets of Marfa and soak up the atmosphere.
Fun Fact: the town’s name comes from a character in Fyoder Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
Marfa’s evolution from railroad water-stop to modern art mecca began in the mid-1980s when the Chinati Foundation opened to the public. More recently, a new generation of artists and entrepreneurs has brought renewed interest and development. That being said, the town retains a mid-20th century charm and almost every destination can be reached on foot or bicycle. Hotel options include Hotel Paisano, built in 1930 and true to that era, or the newly opened Hotel St. George. A word to the wise: if you stay at the latter (where we stayed and we loved it), request a room away from the railroad tracks!
Start the day with breakfast at Do Your Thing or Tumbleweed Laundry – a café and laundromat. Thus fortified, you can head in any direction and come upon unique shops, art galleries or just funky photo ops.
One of my favorites shops is Cast+ Crew (above) with its eclectic collection of mid-century furniture and 21st century design.
Literally around the corner, Cobra Rock Boot Company is a must-see, even if you can’t or won’t buy their exquisite hand-made boots.
Meanwhile, in addition to the bold-name art installations, there are several more intimate galleries right in the middle of town.
Marfa Contemporary is housed in a former gas station. The collective offers rotating exhibits, classes for adults and children free of charge, and artists-in-residence programs. Ballroom Marfa has a terrific exhibition program and they are responsible for Prada Marfa, actually located in Valentine. This may be one of the most photographed spots in West Texas.I spent hours in the Marfa Book Company (inside the Hotel St. George) They have great art and art-related books as well as a terrific selection of lithographs, monoprints, and ceramics by local artists.I could have eaten lunch every day (except Monday or Tuesday when they are closed) at Food Shark and they now serve dinner behind the truck at FoodSharkLand. My husband was enamored of the vintage cars that formed a wall/art installation out front. We had excellent meals at Stellina and Cochineal. Make your reservations well ahead for dinner as these two restaurants are in tremendous demand.
Lastly, ride a bike (Marfa has a bike share program) or drive around the outskirts of town to take in the fabulous landscape, if possible in the early morning or late afternoon. It will be one of the highlights of your trip.