The John Chamberlain Building. Photo by David Keller.

Chamberlain restoration begins, $1.25M grant from #StartSmall

Permanent installations and careful maintenance are crucial to the autonomy and integrity of art, to its defense, especially now when so many people want to use it for something else. 

– Donald Judd, On Installation, 1982

This month, Chinati begins work on a major restoration of the John Chamberlain Building in downtown Marfa. The project was identified as the top priority in Chinati’s 2017 comprehensive masterplan. Originally a series of warehouses for wool and mohair built in the 1940s, the Chamberlain Building was architecturally adapted by Donald Judd and opened to the public in 1983 as a permanent installation of sculptures by John Chamberlain. After four decades in the harsh desert climate, the 23,000 square foot building is in of need significant repair to protect the art inside and the architectural interventions by Judd. 

Chinati has contracted JC Stoddard—a company that has worked closely with the Texas Historical Commission and municipalities restoring structures and historic courthouses throughout Texas—and architects Schaum/Shieh to perform the work. The Chamberlain Building restoration project is expected to be completed by Spring 2022.

Courtyard of the John Chamberlain building with adobe wall. Photo by Alex Marks.

Among the distinctive Judd additions to the Chamberlain Building is the exposed adobe wall that creates an exterior courtyard on the northwest corner. The grant from #StartSmall will fund a dedicated effort to recruit women from far West Texas communities for job training in the field of adobe restoration, with a particular focus on the specialized skills of restoring Judd’s unique adobe and cement construction.

Pronghorn antelope grazing through the grasslands with artillery shed in the distance. Photo by Andreas Meichsner.

Chinati is situated on 340 acres in the Chihuahuan high desert grasslands. As envisioned by Judd, Chinati’s environment was an integral context for the art and architecture sited on the grounds, while also providing an essential habitat for local and migrating wildlife.

With support from #StartSmall, Chinati’s project to preserve and protect the land will become a hands-on initiative to train young women from the region in grassland conservation, range ecology, and land management.

Conservation intern Christopher Gonzales cleans Horn sculpture
Former conservation intern, Chris Gonzales, polishes Roni Horn’s Things That Happen Again, Pair Object VII (For a Here and a There).

Chinati’s internship program was established in 1990 to provide valuable experience for emerging professionals in the art world. #StartSmall’s grant enables Chinati to provide interns a $15 hourly wage, in addition to housing and full benefits. Particular outreach will focus on recruiting to the program young women of color, professionals who have been underrepresented in the field of arts administration. 

Chinati thanks Jack Dorsey and #StartSmall for transformational support of our mission to preserve and present what Judd created here. This very generous grant enables Chinati to approach crucial restoration projects in a way that builds partnerships and opportunities, particularly for young women in our local Marfa and broader art communities.