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.

Announcing Marfa Dialogues/NY

16 Jul 2013


Marfa Dialogues/NY to Debut in New York City this Fall

Interdisciplinary Project Brings Together Over 20 Leading Cultural, Academic and Advocacy Organizations Citywide To Address Climate Change in Art, Activism and Science.

June 27, 2013: The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Ballroom Marfa and the Public Concern Foundation will bring the Marfa Dialogues to New York in October-November 2013 as part of a continuing examination of climate change science, environmental activism and artistic practice.

Marfa Dialogues/NY will feature two months of programming including community forums, art exhibitions, musical performance and environmental panels, all accessible to the public and available via broadcast and digital media. Ballroom Marfa will present an art exhibition of environmentally-engaged works at the Rauschenberg Foundation Project Space (455 W. 19th Street in Chelsea), and will orchestrate additional events with Marfa Dialogues program partners at that location.

A calendar of events will be available in August at, along with ongoing context and discussion for participants. For more about previous Marfa Dialogues, see

Through program grants provided by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Marfa Dialogues/NY establishes 18 programs radiating across New York. Programming partners include:

The Carbon Tax Center; The Center for Social Inclusion; Columbia University’s Earth Institute; Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate & Society; Cooper Union’s Institute for Sustainable Development; Gallery Aferro; High Line Art; IMC Lab & Gallery; Joe’s Pub at Public Theater; Mary Miss/City as a Living Laboratory; Materials for the Art; New School’s Center for New York City Affairs; NRDC; Sculpture Center; Socrates Sculpture Park; Storefront for Art & Architecture; Superhero Clubhouse and Triple Canopy.

New Rebecca Solnit: Too Soon to Tell

22 May 2013

Rebecca Solnit at the nature walk at Mimms Ranch as part of the Marfa Dialogues, 2 September 2012. Photo by Elizabeth Chapman.

Rebecca Solnit at the nature walk at Mimms Ranch, 2 September 2012. Photo by Elizabeth Chapman.

For the 10th anniversary of her “arrival” at the Tom Dispatch online journal, Rebecca Solnit contributes “Too Soon To Tell: The Case for Hope, Continued“, a deeply inspirational essay. An excerpt …

“If you take the long view, you’ll see how startlingly, how unexpectedly but regularly things change. Not by magic, but by the incremental effect of countless acts of courage, love, and commitment, the small drops that wear away stones and carve new landscapes, and sometimes by torrents of popular will that change the world suddenly. To say that is not to say that it will all come out fine in the end regardless. I’m just telling you that everything is in motion, and sometimes we are ourselves that movement.”

It’s a moving piece of writing from a thinker with such a wide range of influence that she’s credited as one of the leading lights of the anti-war movement, contributed profound essays to photographic catalogs by Richard Misrach and James Evans, and is cited as possible inspiration for the christening of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter. She’s also the author of such modern-day classics as A Field Guide to Getting Lost, A Paradise Built in Hell and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas.

Solnit was a participant in the 2012 edition of Marfa Dialogues: You can listen to an interview with her while she was visiting us out here in the Big Bend at Marfa Public Radio. Her new book, The Faraway Nearby, comes out on June 13.

Boquillas One Month Later

10 May 2013


The crossing between Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park and the village of Boquillas in the Mexican state of Coahuilla was closed in May of 2002, part of a shutdown of traffic across the US-Mexico border in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Despite the efforts of a number of activists to re-open the crossing in the style of automated facilities like those found on the US-Canada border, the port of entry at Boquillas stayed closed, fueled in part by the debate over immigration and the explosion of violence elsewhere in Mexico.

As a result, Americans were forced to forgo tacos and beer after a day of hiking or rafting in the park: An idyll documented most famously by Robert Earl Keen on the titular song from his 1994 album, Gringo Honeymoon:

Meanwhile the residents of Boquillas were left without access to groceries or the basic educational and medical resources that they had come to depend on from their American neighbors in Rio Grande Village on the other side of the knee-deep river. While RGV is a few short hours on well-maintained roads from Terlingua, Presidio, Marfa and Alpine, the nearest Mexican town to Boquillas — Melchor Muzquiz — is five hours away on rough dirt tracks. The nearest port of entry between Ojinaga and Presidio is at least a 10 hour drive.

The tourist dollars that were the backbone of the local economy disappeared and Boquillas’ population shrank from 300 to just under 100 people, turning the already impoverished village into a harsh laboratory for many of the ideas explored at the first Marfa Dialogues in 2011, namely a demonstration of the the effects of strangling long-established cross-border exchange between neighbors and families.

That changed on April 10, 2013 when, after years of delays, the crossing re-opened as an automated class-B port of entry. Hundreds of Americans made the trip over to Boquillas in the month that followed. Here’s our primer on the coverage the crossing has received since then:

Michael Pollan at Marfa Dialogues 2012

24 Apr 2013

Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, is now available for purchase, and the self-described “nature writer who writes about this particular part of nature that we don’t think of as nature” is popping up all over the place, from The Colbert Report to the Field Lab.

In September of 2012 Pollan joined us here in Far West Texas for the second Marfa Dialogues symposium. He and Hamilton Fish had a sprawling conversation in front of a packed house at the Crowley Theater, the entirety of which is available for your viewing pleasure up above.

The move comes as lawmakers are looking to rein in Medicaid spending

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Michael Pollan in NY Mag: “Food is ecological as well as sociological”

17 Apr 2013


Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, hits the shelves next week. Here’s an excerpt from his excellent Q&A with New York Magazine‘s Adam Platt, available in full on their website …

Did you ever dream that you’d find yourself as a sort of high priest of food?

I’m a little troubled by that role. I don’t want to be the food superego for people. I don’t have the answers, and I really want people to work this stuff out on their own.

I’m not a scientist. Like a lot of journalists, I go out and talk to a lot of people who know much more than I do. And I’m always surprised when they think I’ve got something new to tell them after I’ve published. You’ll talk to a bunch of scientists, you’ll write a story about what they’re doing, and then they’ll invite you to their next meeting as if you have original information. You don’t. What you have is the ability to synthesize and tell a story.

What’s that story?
That food is ecological as well as sociological—that the way we eat is connected to the environment and to the health of the land.

My early work really did grow out of gardens. My idea was that you could understand a relationship to the natural world by looking in these places Americans hadn’t looked very much—the garden, the dinner plate, the farm. In general, when Americans want to think about nature, they go to wild places. And I’ve always thought of myself as a nature writer who doesn’t like to go camping or go too far from home. But nature is right here. It’s right under our noses.”

There’s so much more over at New York

Pollan spoke to a packed house here in Far West Texas as part of Marfa Dialogues 2012. If you’re in the mood for more, take a listen to Joe Nick Patoski’s interview with him over at Marfa Public Radio.

Inside Climate News Wins Pulitzer

16 Apr 2013


Inside Climate News won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of“, an epic journalism project about a massive oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Reporters Elizabeth McGowan, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer’s longform journalism starts as a gripping narrative of the forgotten 2010 spill, but quickly makes connections with contemporary debates around the Keystone XL pipeline and coverage of Exxon’s oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29.

From “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of, Part 1“:

“Despite the scope of the damage, the Enbridge spill hasn’t attracted much national attention, perhaps because it occurred just 10 days after oil stopped spewing from BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which had ruptured three months earlier. Early reports about the Enbridge spill also downplayed its seriousness. Just about everybody, including the EPA officials who rushed to Marshall, expected the mess to be cleaned up in a couple of months.

What the EPA didn’t know then, however, was that 6B was carrying bitumen, the dirtiest, stickiest oil on the market.

Bitumen is so thick—about the consistency of peanut butter—that it doesn’t flow from a well like the crude oil found in most of the nation’s pipelines. Instead the tarry resin is either steamed or strip-mined from sandy soil. Then it is thinned with large quantities of liquid chemicals so it can be pumped through pipelines. These diluents usually include benzene, a known human carcinogen. At this point it becomes diluted bitumen, or dilbit.”

Keep reading “The Dilbit Disaster” on Inside Climate News, or download the whole thing as an ebook from Amazon.

Read more coverage of ICN’s Pulitzer win at the Wall Street Journal.


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DuJour on Ballroom’s 10 Year Benefit Festivities

10 Apr 2013

Fairfax Dorn. Photograph by BFANYC.COM

“New York gallerygoers, on-the-cusp artists and fashion notables flooded Chelsea’s Center 548 on Monday for a night of performances—both musical and non—and art auctions to benefit Ballroom Marfa, the highly-esteemed nonprofit space for contemporary art, film and music based in Marfa, Texas. Over 40 artists, including Liz Cohen, Solange Azagury-Partridge and Maryam Amiryani, participated in the silent and live auctions held during cocktails and dinner, respectively—some creating new pieces for the event.

The gallery celebrates 10 years of supporting exceptional artists, filmmakers and musicians, but the benefit (which raised $765,000 this year) extends beyond Texas’ art scene: Fairfax Dorn, Ballroom Marfa’s co-founder and executive director, told DuJour before dinner, “We’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing, but also expand our Marfa dialog,” the forefront of which is a focus on climate change and environmental issues through programs involving grants and partnerships in New York this fall.”

Read more and peruse the photo gallery at DuJour.