Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Graham Reynolds and Pancho Villa in the Big Bend Sentinel

11 Nov 2016


Photo by John Daniel Garcia

John Daniel Garcia talks with Graham Reynolds about the inspiration behind his Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance opera for the Big Bend Sentinel

For Reynolds, who majored in Latin American history in college, the addition of Mexican culture was an important factor in choosing the subject of the opera.

“I wanted to dive more deeply into the landscape and the culture of Mexico and the West Texas border,” he said, adding that a trip to Mexico at age 9 sparked a life-long interest and affinity for the culture. “That trip with my parents was transformative. For the opera, we got [Mexico City-based theater collective] Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol for the libretto. That was really important to me. I needed to have Mexican and Mexican-American collaborators for this project.”

Keep reading at Big Bend Now, and find more information about Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance at The production premieres in Marfa tonight, Friday November 11,

MD/NY in the Big Bend Sentinel

1 Aug 2013

A letter to the editor from Fairfax Dorn and Hamilton Fish, from the July 25, 2013 Big Bend Sentinel:

To the many friends and supporters of the Marfa Dialogues in the high desert – We have exciting news: the Marfa Dialogues project is hitting the road and will be opening this fall in New York City with a series of programs on climate change and the arts that will expand on the symposium held in Marfa last September. It’s been our dream to build on the work we started here in 2010, and to export the Marfa Dialogues model of engaging the arts with social and political concerns to communities around the country.

With the support of our partners at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation we have created a two-month long Marfa Dialogues calendar of events in New York, beginning in October. More than 20 leading New York cultural, academic and public interest institutions are participating in this city-wide public conversation around climate change. Like our Marfa project, but on a larger scale, the Marfa Dialogues/New York program will feature community forums, public panels, an exhibition curated by Ballroom Marfa at the Rauschenberg project space in Chelsea, an online magazine, public sculpture projects, theater performances, cabarets and film exhibitions – and in the enduring spirit of Marfa, we also have an environmentally conscious food truck as one of our program partners.

Through your participation as co-sponsors, audience members and supporters, the Marfa community has helped shape this initiative. We are hugely grateful for the collaborative efforts of Tim Johnson and Caitlin Murray of the Marfa Book Company; Robert and Rosario Halpern of the Big Bend Sentinel; Tom Michael and the staff at Marfa Public Radio; Farm Stand Marfa; Cochineal; Maiya’s; Rob Crowley, Gory Smelley; The Crowley Theater; Thunderbird Hotel and The Capri; Padre’s; Robert Potts of The Dixon Water Foundation; and to the Food Shark and chef Rocky Barnett for all of their amazing creations. Add to that all of the camera people, copywriters, graphic artists, publicists and the very long list of all of you who contributed so much to the success of our first two Dialogues.

Even as we are expanding the horizons of the Marfa Dialogues project, we will continue our established practice of producing a new Marfa Dialogues program every other year here in Marfa. So break out the new dress and press that shirt – the Marfa Dialogues will be returning to Marfa in the fall of 2014.

And with the Marfa Dialogues banner flying over New York this fall, we hope if you can you’ll join us there and be a part of the exciting schedule of climate change programs being organized across the city. In the next several weeks we’ll be posting more details about the calendar of events on and our new website,

With great appreciation to all,

Fairfax Dorn
Hamilton Fish, co-founders, Marfa Dialogues

For more information on Marfa Dialogues past and future, visit our archive.

Lonn Taylor on Noisy Children, Empty Churches and the Ballroom Drive-In

15 Mar 2013

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 [email protected] 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 …