The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum in Marfa, Texas, founded by artist Donald Judd in the 1980s, has received a transformative $1.25 million grant from #StartSmall—Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s Covid-19 relief initiative—to take up several major restoration projects. The funds will support the upkeep of the foundation’s John Chamberlain Building, Judd adobe wall, and its grasslands, as well as the nonprofit’s paid internship program.
The grant will also support job training in adobe restoration for women living in far West Texas communities. In addition, outreach for the foundation’s internship program, which will pay $15 per hour and offer housing and full benefits to participants, will center young women of color.
In an interview with ARTnews, Chinati director Jenny Moore noted that the pandemic has hugely impacted local economies, with the crisis having precipitated a disproportionate exodus of women from the American workforce. “It’s an opportunity to approach restoration in areas that have traditionally been more male-dominated and to provide new avenues of job training and job advancement [for women in the West Texas region],” she said.
The sites that will be restored using the grant funds were identified in 2017, when the Chinati Foundation finished a comprehensive master plan addressing its needs in terms of art conservation, architectural restoration, land preservation, and operational improvements. The first priority for the foundation is the restoration of its 23,000-square-foot Chamberlain Building, which opened in 1983 and represents one of Judd’s most significant architectural interventions. Restoration of the building, which houses 22 metal sculptures by Chamberlain and his urethane foam seating work Barge Marfa, is expected to be completed in 2022.
“What was really exciting about our conversations with #StartSmall,” Moore said, “was the ability to think about our restoration needs with a fresh perspective on building opportunities and partnerships with members of our local Marfa community and then also thinking about broader art world communities. We’re now able to tackle our restoration projects by building programs that create those opportunities and partnerships.”
For the restoration of the iconic Judd adobe wall, which forms an exterior courtyard, the foundation will employ women from the surrounding West Texas region. Those working on the wall restoration will have the opportunity to learn about conservation processes and techniques unique to the materials Judd used.
Moore acknowledged that “adobe is such a political material,” and that the in-depth restoration program will involve training related to the rich history of the material in Marfa along with modes of preserving it. The funds will also support the conservation, protection, and management of the sprawling 340 acres in the Chihuahuan high desert grasslands, on which the foundation is located.