How remote desert town in Texas became such an arts Mecca

The town of Marfa, Texas gets nearly 25 times more visitors than its population

Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images (Getty Images)

It’s amazing the impact one man from New York City who was looking for some more solitude had on the town of Marfa, Texas.

Because of that quest, Marfa, Texas today is one of America’s most popular hubs for artists, even though it’s in the middle of a desert on the western part of the Lone Star State.

Back in 1971, Donald Judd was a renown artist who was already a success in New York City, but he pined for something that even an arts haven like the Big Apple couldn’t offer.

Judd was desiring more space than New York City’s smaller galleries and buildings had available, so he headed west and discovered Marfa, a desert town that historically has smaller than many high schools around the country.

In 2023, Marfa’s population was listed at 1,748 people.

What drew Judd to Marfa though was its desert setting and space, someplace where he could fully display his work both in inside and outside settings.

So he bought a decommissioned Army base, 16 buildings that were decaying, and three ranches that were spread across 40,000 acres.

In between 1979 and his death from cancer in 1994, Judd constructed an art lover’s paradise, filled with sculptures, paintings and other exhibits, both outside and inside a studio where people can sign up for tours at.

One of the signature displays that Judd created is a set of 15 concrete cubes that is spread out across a field of prairie grass.

There are works on display not only created by Judd, but other artists as well.

Even though Judd has been dead for nearly 30 years, his creations and impact are alive and well to this day.

An article in Vogue said that Marfa drew roughly 49,000 visitors in 2019, nearly 25 times its population, with art being a main reason tourists flock to the remote area.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.