Ballroom Marfa Drive-In and Vizcaino Park Master Plan
In last week’s edition of our local paper, the Big Bend Sentinel, Fort Davis-based columnist and historian Lonn Taylor asked questions about the ongoing Ballroom Marfa Drive-In project, shedding light on the history of drive-in movie theaters in the process.
“The popularity of drive-ins was a function of the baby boom that followed World War II, when many young families had noisy children,” he writes. “Drive-in owners added playgrounds for the children and concession stands, some of them serving full meals, for adults. Even Marfa, with a population of 3,600, had a drive-in, which opened in 1953 just west of the cemetery and closed six years later.”
He goes on to wonder about the lessons learned from other developers who have tried to launch projects in our Far West Texas town, specifically the failure of the Brite family to establish a Disciples of Christ community in the World War II-era, an exercise that included enticing believers with the work of architect Leighton Green Knipe, who, as Taylor writes, “gave them a magnificent building whose sanctuary will seat five hundred people.” A building which, after the thriving congregation failed to materialize, “now stands empty on the west side of the courthouse square.”
Taylor also considers the more well-known story of Donald Judd’s arrival in the early ’70s and the 40 years in between that turned, in Taylor’s words, “a drought-blighted cattle town into an international art center.”
Ballroom’s Director of External Affairs & Drive-In Project Manager Melissa McDonnell responded with a letter clarifying that the Drive-In project — encompassing a rehabilitation of the entire 21-acre site at Vizcaino Park — goes beyond the historical models discussed by Taylor …
“The Drive-In project also includes a master plan for Vizcaino Park, which has come out of discussions with Presidio County and community members. The master plan looks at the entire park and identifies needed improvements for existing park structures, such as the baseball field bleachers and locates new recreational spaces such as a soccer field and possibly a skate park. Other organizations such as Big Bend Soccer Association and El Cosmico have expressed interest in participating in the development of these new spaces.
“The Drive-In theater space is for all community organizations to use and program,” she continues. “While Ballroom Marfa will have programming that includes film screenings, concerts and operas, the facility will be available for local organizations to host movie screenings, high school graduations, music concerts, plays, etc.”
Further discussion and exploration of this ongoing project is encouraged from all members of our community. Vistors are welcome to stop by the Drive-In Project space at the Ballroom offices, next door to Marfa Studio Arts at 106 San Antonio. Melissa is also available for comments and questions about the Drive-In project at firstname.lastname@example.org or 432-729-3600. You can also find out more at the Drive-In section of the Ballroom website.
Click here for the full text of Taylor’s column. Click here for Melissa’s response, which we’ve included in full after the jump …