There's still time to plan a west-Texas getaway this weekend for an annual art event that's seen some changes over the past few years.
In October 2007, the Chinati Foundation's annual Open House Weekend event had reached critical mass. The tiny town of Marfa was overrun with hipsters and alt-rock fans there to see a free concert by Sonic Youth (past performers at Open House included the Dandy Warhols and Yo La Tengo). As a bonus for the tourists, Chinati also provided its traditional free barbecue dinner on the town's main drag. Score!
But because of the overwhelming influx (you couldn't find a motel room within a 100-mile radius of Marfa), Chinati realized it needed to revisit the mission of Open House and scale back.
"We've continued to do some kind of annual event on the same date of the Columbus Day weekend," says Ann Marie Nafziger, Chinati's education and public programs coordinator. "We no longer call it Open House; we're calling it Chinati Weekend instead. It's a kind of restructuring of some of our programming overall. We decided we would spread things out a little more throughout the year instead of doing one really large event. This year is certainly scaled back from some of what we've done in the past when it was Open House."
Nafziger says that past attendance had been a strain on Marfa's infrastructure. It is indeed a tiny town, regardless of its art-world reputation.
Gone is the annual festival's free Saturday night dinner. Instead, Chinati will host a Friday night benefit dinner with a $500 per-ticket admission. The free meal has been moved to Chinati's spring Community Day, which appropriately gives back to the Marfa community.
But there's still much to take in over Chinati Weekend. The foundation's permanent collection will be open to the public and free of charge Friday and Saturday, and performance artist John Kelly will perform Paved Paradise Redux, in which he portrays singer Joni Mitchell.
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Chinati Weekend is a rare opportunity to experience the strange vibe of tiny-town Texas mixed with an international art presence. And you can't beat the weather.
Below, check out a video Art Attack shot in 2007, the night Sonic Youth killed Open House.