UPDATE: Ballroom Marfa’s Drive-In “Indefinitely Deferred”

At 5:18 p.m., Melissa McDonnell Luján, Ballroom Marfa’s deputy director, released a statement to the media signed by Ballroom Co-Founders Virginia Lebermann and Fairfax Dorn regarding the future of their Drive-In project. An excerpt is included below.

“The Ballroom Marfa Board of Trustees has decided that, in spite of our best intentions, the project has outgrown the original vision. In its current proposed state, the Drive-In project will require significant fundraising efforts that could compromise the level of innovative and community-minded programming that has been Ballroom Marfa’s priority since 2003. As of now further development of the Drive-In is indefinitely deferred.”

More on the history of the Drive-In project and what led up to this decision below in our original post.

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Ballroom Marfa, a nonprofit contemporary cultural arts space in Marfa, was alerted by the Presidio County Commissioners that its multi-million dollar Drive-In project could be in jeopardy if the art gallery doesn’t lay out how it plans to let the public use the event space.

Presidio County Commissioners have agreed to send Ballroom a “notice of non-compliance” over the project’s lease. That letter would advise Ballroom that its land lease for the Drive-In could be terminated if commissioners don’t hear more on the gallery’s plans for working with community groups based in Presidio County.

Ballroom signed a lease to build the project at Vizcaino Park in Marfa, and in exchange for essentially free rent, the gallery agreed to let local community groups use the space alongside the national and international acts it’s likely to bring in for its own events.

Under the terms, the gallery would also have to come up with a logistical plan for organizing and administering those community events. The county’s planned letter would suggest Ballroom hasn’t done that.

The county hasn’t yet sent the letter, and there’s not a set date for when it will.

Ballroom’s Deputy Director Melissa McDonnell Luján says she can’t make a statement on the notice until the gallery receives it. Luján did say the gallery plans to release an update on the Drive-In project this week.

In 2011, Ballroom was given a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Our Town” program for its community-oriented approach to planning the Drive-In. The event space would include a large outdoor amphitheater-style space for music, film and a host of other activities. Upgrades to Vizcaino Park have also been mentioned.

The Drive-In’s principal architects – Michael Meredith and Hilary Staple of the New York-based firm MOS – describe the project as having the potential to “create a new typology of performance space, one where landscape is a key part of the performance.”

Ballroom has said the Drive-In would bring back the community spirit of classic drive-in theaters, and open the door for more community-based events in Marfa.

You can listen to Historian Lonn Taylor’s “Rambling Boy” commentary on the Drive-In here.

Disclaimer: Ballroom Marfa is a regular underwriter with Marfa Public Radio.

About Travis Bubenik

Morning Edition Host & Reporter

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