Marfa Live Arts engages a diverse community through the performing arts, arts education, film, music, and other cultural arts programs. Marfa Live Arts celebrates and strengthens the cultural richness of the people of the Big Bend, and enhances the area tourist appeal through sophisticated programming featuring the talents of the region's own professional performers, dedicated amateurs, and international artists.
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Marfa Live Arts originated in the spring of 2001 (originally Marfa Theatre) when a dedicated group of cultural producers came together with a shared mission to initiate community theater in Marfa. In 2008, the name of the organization was changed to reflect an expansion in mission that encompassed the presentation of all performing arts and the desire to connect all programs to arts education.
We walk two paths. First, we produce an array of innovative live performances. Over the years, we have presented high caliber programs with artists from around the world and maintained our commitment to programs with the region's own professional performers and dedicated amateurs. Visiting artists from past programs include Stephen Vitiello, Suzanne Bocanegra, Jo Harvey & Terry Allen, Kinky Freidman, Chie Mukai & Tori Kudo, Fire Island Opera Festival, Lower Left, Sahra Motalebi, Alvin Lucier & Charles Curtis, and Thollem McDonas & AC Villa. Ongoing programs with regional talent include the popular 24 Hour Plays written and acted by members of the community and Beyond the Box featuring performance art by Marfa-based artists.
Second, we create original arts education programs. Our goal is to bring performing arts and arts education to Marfa citizens—both children and adults—and to give them tools to build self-confidence, critical thinking, and the freedom to explore new ideas. In addition to community programs, we provide annual in-school arts education programs to Marfa ISD at no cost to the school district.
Most importantly, we work to combine the two paths—performance and education. Marfa has an abundance of cultural offerings through visual arts but we distinguish ourselves by focusing on the presentation of live performances on par with arts education. However, this education-focused mission does not deter us from presenting challenging work. Our projects bring pioneering performance, theater, musical, and dance performances to a rural community that is constantly sought out for programs that push the boundaries of the cultural vanguard. In connection with every live performance by visiting artists, we develop an educational program to create a connection between the artists and Marfa citizens. Artists are invited to host an in-school program or community education workshop. Students and artists also take part in interviews for regional publications and radio interviews in El Paso and Marfa.
Without a permanent venue, Marfa Live Arts presents works across town leading our attendees through an exploration of Marfa—the sites, sounds, architectures, and histories. Each of our performances is sited in a location that allows the performance, artist, and audience to be in dialogue with the unique location. Recent and upcoming performance sites include the Crowley Theater, the Capri, the Lumberyard Adobe Room, Building 98, Hotel Paisano, Fieldwork: Marfa’s Antelope Hills, Chinati Foundation's Chamberlain Building, Marfa Book Co., and Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch.
In 2014, the board mandated that all public programs be presented without admission fees and all programs for the public schools are free to both Marfa ISD and the students as a way to guarantee diversified audiences. By incorporating education programs, community engagement, and volunteerism into all of our public programs, we believe our organization is proof that the arts can be a dynamically democratizing force in Marfa.
The intersections of art and community is the heart and soul of our work in Marfa.
A major component of our organization is our year-round education programs in partnership with the public schools of Marfa ISD. The schools have limited budgets for arts education and rely on outside organizations to augment their programs. Additionally, many Marfa students are labeled socioeconomically disadvantaged, so the arts support that we provide the school systems - at no cost - is vital. Through the years, we have realized the key to lasting impact is repeating successful programs, and we have identified key programs for annual presentation. Getting into the class year after year and working with the same students from Junior High through graduation provides for a bonding experience—with both the student and Marfa Live Arts as teachers. As relationships are built and strengthened, the student's level of trust increases and walls come down. With each year of continued student exposure, the work we do takes on a deeper and meaningful level within these young lives.
Playwriting Workshop & One-Act Plays with Marfa High School (since 2011):
Every spring, Marfa Live Arts has worked hand-in-hand with Marfa ISD to present a playwriting workshop during their English classes for 9-12th grade students. Every spring, we sponsor an award-winning Latino/Latina playwright for a weeklong residency in Marfa to teach this workshop. The playwright leads students through creative writing exercises, guiding them to develop characters and plots while unleashing their imaginations. During the week, we also stage a play by visiting playwright with professional actors, giving students from the workshop an opportunity to see a professional production while working on their own plays. Winning student plays are then selected from each grade, and brought to life on stage during a magical evening when plays are staged at the Crowley Theater. The student playwrights direct local actors, community leaders, friends, and neighbors in the final staged productions. It’s an electrifying night—affirming our commitment to showing our students that their stories matter. Our current roster of playwrights includes Octavio Solaris, Liz Castillo, Raul Garza, and Georgina Escobar.
Monologue Workshop & Winter Theater Showcase with Marfa Junior High (since 2016):
With the success of the High School playwriting program, Marfa ISD invited us to create a companion program for younger students that takes place in the winter. In 2016, we launched a monologue and scene writing workshop for 7th and 8th grade English classes. This weeklong program led by our Director Jennie Lyn Hamilton serves to prepare students for their participation in the High School Playwriting Workshop by focusing on scene and character development. Winning selections from each grade are debuted at the Winter Theater Showcase. In its first year, 11 student monologues and scenes were performed by 13 community actors at the Crowley Theater.
La Banda, Camp Summer Shake-Up (since 2013):
Each summer Marfa Live Arts participates and teaches an education program for Marfa ISD during Camp Summer Shake-Up, we formalized our program with the launch of La Banda as an annual program. We invite local professional Tejano musicians to teach 2nd-8th graders during a four-day camp focused on the basics of rhythm, instrument usage, and cumbia dancing. The camp concludes with an evening community potluck and lively public performance at Crowley Theater. Last year’s performance was standing room only and has been recognized by the Marfa ISD School Board as a valued addition to the school’s music program.
Year-Round // Instrument Donation with Marfa ISD Band Program (since 2014):
In conjunction with our music education programs we donate the corresponding musical instrument(s) to the band department so that Marfa ISD students can continue to harness their feelings of inspiration. So far, we have donated two accordions, six violins, a cello, a set of maracas, a drum set, Mexican guiros, and three acoustic guitars. This year we will work with sound artists Akio Suzuki and Aki Onda, and donate traditional Japanese instruments to the band department and a bass guitar through La Banda.
Year-Round // Crowley Theater Tech Training (since 2015):
Working directly with Rob Crowley the theater’s Technical Advisor, selected students are given hands-on experience with event production, as they operate the technical sound and light boards for the public performances of the One-Act Plays and Winter Theater Showcase, and during rehearsals artistic programs with visiting artists.
Board of Directors
JENNIE LYN HAMILTON, Director, Marfa ,TX
NINA MARTIN, President, Marfa & Ft. Worth, TX
GEORGINA ESCOBAR, New York, NY
CORINA FAVELA, El Paso, TX
MELISSA KEANE, Austin, TX
MARGARET PAEK, New York, NY
Partners and Collaborators
Lower Left Performance Collective is an ensemble of dance artists that is nourished by its connection to the Marfa community. Lower Left is a program of Marfa Live Arts. Lower Left is dedicated to the spontaneous combustion inherent in the collaborative process, choosing to rely on the combined artistic vitality of its artists rather than the hierarchy of the traditional dance company. Following this collective model, both artistic and organizational aspects are centered around an openness and spontaneity that have become Lower Left’s trademark.
in front of us film series, initiated in September 2016, features films by women directors, producers, and screenwriters as well as films that explore gender and films with women in lead roles. the series hopes to address the historical under-representation of women in film by examining films that suggest another future is possible. according to a recent report produced by the aclu, of the 1,300 highest-grossing films produced in the united states between 2002 and 2014, only 4% involved a woman director. the situation for women of color is even more difficult. for example, of the 500 highest-grossing films produced between 2007 and 2014, only 2 involved African American women directors. additionally, films with women in lead roles are still considered risky and when they are made, are the subject of considerable criticism concerning their viability before release. in front of us film series endeavors to build an awareness of the situation for women in film and to develop a film culture that is increasingly inclusive and one where more diverse and better films are made. in front of us is organized by Tim Johnson, Caitlin Murray, Eileen Myles, Peggy O'Brien, Carolyn Pfeiffer, and Elise Pepple and is supported by Marfa Live Arts.
Previous Partners and Collaborators
ISSUE Project Room is a pioneering performance center, presenting time-based work by emerging and established experimental artists that expand the boundaries of creative practice and stimulate critical dialogue about art and culture in the broader community. ISSUE plays a vital role in NYC’s cultural ecology, facilitating the commission and premiere of new works and presenting a diverse array of artists working across and between the disciplines of sound, dance, film, performance and literature.
Clocktower Productions is a non-profit art institution working in the visual arts, performance, music, and radio. Founded in 1972 in Lower Manhattan by MoMA PS1 Founder Alanna Heiss, Clocktower is the oldest alternative art project in New York, and its radio station, Clocktower Radio, was founded in 2003 as one of the first all-art online museum radio stations in the world. The institution functions as a laboratory for experimentation, working closely and collaboratively with artists, musicians, curators, writers and producers to develop, realize and present innovative and challenging work in all media, ranging from installation to performance and from experimental music to radio theater.
Fieldwork: Marfa is the joint project of two major European art schools, ESBA Nantes Métropole and HEAD-Genève. This international researcher-in-residence program is dedicated to the practice of art in public space, critical approaches to landscape, and artistic projects based on field investigation methods. Residents are selected on the basis of the singularity of specific projects they present.
The Fire Island Opera Festival commissions new one-act American operas and pairs them with revivals of forgotten works. Top artists from the world of opera, theater, classical music, dance, fashion and visual art unite at a Pines beach mansion and the newly rebuilt Pavilion on Fire Island Pines, converted into a beach 'opera house' by Marfa-based installation artist Charles Mary Kubricht. The result is an intimate exchange between art and nature that will transport the audience to a singular theatrical and musical experience.
CounterCurrent is a festival of bold experimental art that occupies a range of unexpected sites in the city of Houston. Presented by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, CounterCurrent includes audio and visual installation, live performance and participatory events by artists from around the world. Collaborations with dynamic organizations and artists in the Houston community are included as well as fresh new works by University of Houston faculty and students.
CineMarfa is a non-profit organization devoted to supporting local and visiting filmmakers, sponsoring year-round film screenings in Marfa, providing educational opportunities for local youth and adults to make and present films, and producing the CineMarfa festival annually.