Marfa, Texas
Marfa is a town in the high desert of far West Texas
West Texas
West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semi-arid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas....

 in the Southwestern United States
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

. Located between the Davis Mountains
Davis Mountains
The Davis Mountains are a range of mountains in West Texas, located near Fort Davis, after which they are named. They are a popular site for camping and hiking and the region includes Fort Davis National Historic Site and Davis Mountains State Park...

 and Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is a national park located in the U.S. state of Texas. Big Bend has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, which includes more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56...

, it is also the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Presidio County
Presidio County, Texas
Presidio County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. In 2000, its population was 7,304. Its county seat is Marfa. Presidio County is in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas and is named for the ancient border settlement of Presidio del Norte.-Geography:Presidio County is triangular in...

. The population was 1,981 at the 2010 census.

Marfa was founded in the early 1880s as a railroad water stop, and grew quickly through the 1920s. Marfa Army Airfield
Marfa Army Airfield
Marfa Army Airfield is an abandoned airfield located in the high desert of West Texas, about southeast of El Paso.-History:...

 (Fort D.A. Russell) was located east of the town during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and trained several thousand pilots before closing in 1945 (the abandoned site is still visible ten miles (16 km) east of the city). The base was also used as the training ground for many of the U.S. Army's Chemical mortar battalion
Chemical mortar battalion
The United States chemical mortar battalions were army units attached to U.S. Infantry divisions, and it was their responsibility to service the 4.2 in chemical mortar during World War II. For this reason they were also called the "Four-deucers"....


Despite its small size, today Marfa is a tourist destination. Attractions include the historical architecture and classic Texas town square, modern art at the Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum located in Marfa, Texas and based upon the ideas of its founder, artist Donald Judd.- Mission :...

 and in galleries around town, and the Marfa lights
Marfa lights
The Marfa lights, also known as the Marfa ghost lights, have been observed near U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat east of Marfa, Texas, in the United States...


Amateur etymologist Barry Popik
Barry Popik
Barry Popik is an American etymologist who is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms "Big Apple", "Windy City," "hot dog," and many other food and slang terms; he is a consulting editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America and was described in The Wall Street...

 has shown that Marfa is named after Marfa Strogoff, a character in the Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

 novel Michael Strogoff
Michael Strogoff
Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar is a novel written by Jules Verne in 1876. Critics consider it one of Verne's best books. Unlike some of Verne's other famous novels, it is not science fiction, but a scientific phenomenon is a plot device. The book was later adapted to a play, by Verne...

and its theatrical adaptation; the origin was reported in the Galveston Daily News on December 17, 1882, after the Marfa railroad station was established but before Marfa received a post office in 1883.

The Handbook of Texas
Handbook of Texas
The Handbook of Texas is a comprehensive encyclopedia of Texas geography, history, and historical persons published by the Texas State Historical Association .-History:...

states that the wife of a railroad executive reportedly suggested the name "Marfa" after reading the name in the Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays. He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov....

 novel The Brothers Karamazov
The Brothers Karamazov
The Brothers Karamazov is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing The Brothers Karamazov, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger and completed in November 1880...



Marfa is located at 30°18′43"N 104°1′29"W (30.311863, -104.024779).
According to the United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

, Marfa has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²), all land. The city is located in the Chihuahuan Desert
Chihuahuan Desert
The Chihuahuan Desert is a desert, and an ecoregion designation, that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border in the central and northern portions of the Mexican Plateau, bordered on the west by the extensive Sierra Madre Occidental range, and overlaying northern portions of the east range, the Sierra...

, an underdeveloped region of about 140,000 square miles (~362,600 km²). There is less than one person per square mile in the area.

Modern art and minimalism

In 1971, Donald Judd
Donald Judd
Donald Clarence Judd was an American artist associated with minimalism . In his work, Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it, ultimately achieving a rigorously democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy...

, the renowned minimalist
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

 artist, moved to Marfa from New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. After renting summer houses for a couple of years he bought two large hangars, some smaller buildings and started to permanently install his art. While this started with his building in New York, the buildings in Marfa (now The Block, Judd Foundation) allowed him to install his works on a larger scale. In 1976 he bought the first of two ranches that would become his primary places of residence, continuing a long love affair with the desert landscape surrounding Marfa. Later, with assistance from the Dia Art Foundation in New York, Judd acquired decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell, and began transforming the fort's buildings into art spaces in 1979. Judd's vision was to house large collections of individual artists' work on permanent display, as a sort of anti-museum. Judd believed that the prevailing model of a museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

, where art is shown for short periods of time, does not allow the viewer an understanding of the artist or their work as they intended.

Since Judd's death in 1994, two foundations have been working to maintain his legacy: the Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum located in Marfa, Texas and based upon the ideas of its founder, artist Donald Judd.- Mission :...

 and Judd Foundation. Every year The Chinati Foundation holds an Open House event where artists, collectors, and enthusiasts come from around the world to visit Marfa's art. Since 1997 Open House has been co-sponsored by both foundations and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. In 2008, the Chinati Foundation changed the format of the Open House weekend, eliminating various events. This significantly reduced the number of visitors.

The Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation
The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum located in Marfa, Texas and based upon the ideas of its founder, artist Donald Judd.- Mission :...

 now occupies more than 10 buildings at the site and has on permanent exhibit work by Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfr Arnarson is recognized as the first permanent Nordic settler of Iceland. According to Landnáma he built his homestead in Reykjavík in 874...

, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin
Dan Flavin
Dan Flavin was an American minimalist artist famous for creating sculptural objects and installations from commercially available fluorescent light fixtures.-Early life and career:...

, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg
Claes Oldenburg
Claes Oldenburg is a Swedish sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring very large replicas of everyday objects...

, Coosje van Bruggen, John Wesley, and David Rabinowitch.

In recent years, a new wave of artists has moved to Marfa to live and work. As a result, new gallery spaces have opened in the downtown area. Furthermore, The Lannan Foundation has established a writers-in-residency program, a Marfa theater group has formed, and a multi-functional art space called Ballroom Marfa has begun to show art films, host musical performances, and exhibit other art installations.

Marfa lights

Outside of Donald Judd and modern art, Marfa may be most famous for the Marfa lights
Marfa lights
The Marfa lights, also known as the Marfa ghost lights, have been observed near U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat east of Marfa, Texas, in the United States...

, visible on clear nights between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when one is facing southwest (toward the Chinati Mountains). According to the Handbook of Texas Online, " times they appear colored as they twinkle in the distance. They move about, split apart, melt together, disappear, and reappear. Presidio County residents have watched the lights for over a hundred years. The first historical record of them recalls that in 1883 a young cowhand, Robert Reed Ellison, saw a flickering light while he was driving cattle through Paisano Pass and wondered if it was the campfire of Apache Indians. He was told by other settlers that they often saw the lights, but when they investigated they found no ashes or other evidence of a campsite.

Presidio County has built a viewing station nine miles east of town on U.S. 67 near the site of the old air base. Each year, enthusiasts gather for the annual Marfa Lights Festival.

These objects have been featured and mentioned in various media, including the television show Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries is an American television program, hosted by Robert Stack, from 1987 until 2002, and later by Dennis Farina, starting in 2008...

and an episode of King of the Hill
King of the Hill
King of the Hill is an American animated dramedy series created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, that ran from January 12, 1997, to May 6, 2010, on Fox network. It centers on the Hills, a working-class Methodist family in the fictional small town of Arlen, Texas...

 ("Of Mice and Little Green Men") and in an episode of Disney Channel Original Series So Weird, however the producers/writers had made the countryside of Marfa as a forest area instead of a desert area which Marfa is actually located in. A fictional book by David Morrell
David Morrell
David Morrell is a Canadian-American novelist, best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become the successful Rambo film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. He has written 28 novels, and his work has been translated into 26 languages...

, 2009's The Shimmer, is inspired by the lights. The metalcore group Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me is an American heavy metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina. They have released a total of five studio albums, as well as a cover album, an EP and a live DVD/CD...

 make a reference in the song "Obfuscation" (2009).

Filming of Giant and other films

The famous 1956 Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 film Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
Dame Elizabeth Rosemond "Liz" Taylor, DBE was a British-American actress. From her early years as a child star with MGM, she became one of the great screen actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age...

, Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson
Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., later Roy Harold Fitzgerald , known professionally as Rock Hudson, was an American film and television actor, recognized as a romantic leading man during the 1950s and 1960s, most notably in several romantic comedies with Doris Day.Hudson was voted "Star of the Year",...

, James Dean
James Dean
James Byron Dean was an American film actor. He is a cultural icon, best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause , in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark...

, Sal Mineo
Sal Mineo
Salvatore "Sal" Mineo, Jr. , was an American film and theatre actor, best known for his performance as John "Plato" Crawford opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause...

, Carroll Baker
Carroll Baker
Carroll Baker is a former American actress who has enjoyed popularity as both a serious dramatic actress and, particularly in the 1960s, as a movie sex symbol...

 and Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper
Dennis Lee Hopper was an American actor, filmmaker and artist. As a young man, Hopper became interested in acting and eventually became a student of the Actors' Studio. He made his first television appearance in 1954 and appeared in two films featuring James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant...

, was filmed in Marfa for two months. Director
Film director
A film director is a person who directs the actors and film crew in filmmaking. They control a film's artistic and dramatic nathan roach, while guiding the technical crew and actors.-Responsibilities:...

 George Stevens
George Stevens
George Stevens was an American film director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer.Among his most notable films were Diary of Anne Frank , nominated for Best Director, Giant , winner of Oscar for Best Director, Shane , Oscar nominated, and A Place in the Sun , winner of Oscar for Best...

 did not have a closed set and actively encouraged the townspeople to come by, either to watch the shooting, or visit with the cast and crew, or take part as extras, dialect coaches, bit players and stagehands.

In August 2006, two movie production units used locations in and around Marfa: the film There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood is a 2007 drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!. It tells the story of a silver miner-turned-oilman on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California's oil boom of the late 19th and...

, an adaptation of the Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

 novel Oil!
Oil! is a novel by Upton Sinclair published in 1927 told as a third person narrative. The book was written in the context of the Harding administration's Teapot Dome Scandal and takes place in Southern California. It is a social and political satire skewering the human foibles of all its...

, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He has written and directed five feature films: Hard Eight , Boogie Nights , Magnolia , Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood...

, and the Coen Brothers
Coen Brothers
Joel David Coen and Ethan Jesse Coen known together professionally as the Coen brothers, are American filmmakers...

' adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road...

 novel No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men is a 2005 novel by U.S. author Cormac McCarthy. Set along the United States–Mexico border in 1980, the story concerns an illicit drug deal gone wrong in a remote desert location. The title comes from the poem "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats...


The 1976 play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (play)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is a 1976 play by Ed Graczyk, originally performed at the Players' Theater in Columbus, Ohio. The play revolves around a James Dean fan club that reunites at a Texas five-and-dime store....

, and its 1982 film adaptation, were set in and around Marfa. The film, however, was not shot there.

In 2008, Marfa held the first annual Marfa Film Festival
Marfa Film Festival
The Marfa Film Fesival was a Film festival held in Marfa, Texas, celebrating contemporary and classic film, as well as hosting musical events, tours of the area, and various other art related activities. The first annual was held May 1–5. The second annual was held April 29 - May 3, 2009...

, which lasted from May 1–5.

The music video of 'Home' by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is an American band led by Alex Ebert, vocalist of the power pop group Ima Robot. Their first full-length recording, Up from Below, was released July 7, 2009, digitally and July 14, 2009, physically on Community Records...

 ends in Marfa with a sign reading 'GOODBYE MARFA, TX!!'

The music video of 'Obfuscation' by Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me is an American heavy metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina. They have released a total of five studio albums, as well as a cover album, an EP and a live DVD/CD...

 is set in Marfa.


According to the latest U.S. census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

of 2010, there were 1,981 people, 864 households, and 555 families residing in the city. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 1,354.6 people per square mile (521.6/km²). There were 1,126 housing units at an average density of 719.1 per square mile (276.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91% White, 0.28% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.05% Asian, 7.50% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 0.75% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 69.9% of the population.

There were 863 households out of which 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 24.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 101.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,712, and the median income for a family was $32,328. Males had a median income of $25,804 versus $18,382 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the city was $14,636. About 15.7% of families and 20.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.6% of those under age 18 and 26.9% of those age 65 or over.


Marfa is served by the Marfa Independent School District
Marfa Independent School District
Marfa Independent School District is a public school district based in Marfa, Texas .In addition to Marfa, the district also serves the CDP of Redford and the unincorporated communities of Plata and Shafter....

. Marfa Elementary School and
Marfa Junior/Senior High School, a part of the district, serve the city.

Law enforcement

As of October 1, 2009 the city no longer has a local police department. The Presidio County Sheriff patrols the city as well as the county as a whole.


Marfa is home to NPR-affiliated station KRTS
KRTS is a radio station broadcasting a public radio format. Licensed to Marfa, Texas, USA, it serves the Far West Texas area.The station features programming from National Public Radio plus local affairs and original music programs from the Big Bend.In 2010/2011 approximately half of its budget...


Marfa Magazine is a yearly publication distributed out of Marfa Texas, founded and operated by Johnny Calderon, Jr. Marfa Magazine focuses on current issues and general information about Marfa, Alpine, and Fort Davis.


Marfa operates the Marfa Municipal Airport, located north of the city in unincorporated Presidio County and serving general aviation
General aviation
General aviation is one of the two categories of civil aviation. It refers to all flights other than military and scheduled airline and regular cargo flights, both private and commercial. General aviation flights range from gliders and powered parachutes to large, non-scheduled cargo jet flights...

. Commercial air service is available at either Midland International Airport
Midland International Airport
-Top Destinations:-See also:* Texas World War II Army Airfields-References:* Shaw, Frederick J. , Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004....

, 180 miles (289.7 km) northeast, or El Paso International Airport
El Paso International Airport
El Paso International Airport is a public airport located four miles northeast of the central business district of the City of El Paso, in El Paso County, Texas, USA....

, 190 miles (305.8 km) northwest.

TimeCar, a car sharing company, rents vehicles by the hour or by the day. Located at the Pizza Foundation Building, 100 East San Antonio St., Marfa, TX 79843.
(SE Corner of Route 67 & Route 90). For more information, visit them on the web

Greyhound Lines
Greyhound Lines
Greyhound Lines, Inc., based in Dallas, Texas, is an intercity common carrier of passengers by bus serving over 3,700 destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, operating under the well-known logo of a leaping greyhound. It was founded in Hibbing, Minnesota, USA, in 1914 and...

 operates an intercity bus service from the Western Union
Western Union
The Western Union Company is a financial services and communications company based in the United States. Its North American headquarters is in Englewood, Colorado. Up until 2006, Western Union was the best-known U.S...


The Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

 Sunset Limited
Sunset Limited
The Sunset Limited is a passenger train that for most of its history has run between New Orleans, Louisiana and Los Angeles, California, and that from early 1993 through late August 2005 also ran east of New Orleans to Jacksonville, Florida, making it during that time the only true transcontinental...

 passes through the city, but does not stop. The nearest stop is located in nearby Alpine
Alpine, Texas
Alpine is a city in and the county seat of Brewster County, Texas, United States. The population was 5,786 people at the 2000 census, and had increased to 5,905 by 2010.-History:...


See also

  • Prada Marfa
    Prada Marfa
    Prada Marfa is a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, situated northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Route 90, and about northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation was inaugurated on October 1, 2005...

  • Presidio County Courthouse
    Presidio County Courthouse
    The Presidio County Courthouse is located in Marfa in the U.S. state of Texas. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1964.-Design:...

Those interested in the Marfa lights
Marfa lights
The Marfa lights, also known as the Marfa ghost lights, have been observed near U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat east of Marfa, Texas, in the United States...

 may also be interested in:
  • Taos Hum
  • Brown Mountain Lights
    Brown Mountain Lights
    The Brown Mountain Lights are a series of ghost lights reported near Brown Mountain in North Carolina. The lights can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks at mile posts 310 and 301 and from the Brown Mountain Overlook on NC Highway 181 between Morganton, NC and Linville, NC...

  • The Spooklight

External links

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