Marfa, Texas

Offered last summer 2014

Combining students from CCA, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and the Dutch Art Institute through the organization of TAAK, this studio allows students to collaborate in the research, development, and execution of a project, guided by an instructor from each college, guest artists, and the curator of TAAK, Theo Tegelaers.

View Melissa Miller's Marfstagram 2013 »

Marfa Fieldwork Project

Instructors: Shaun O’Dell, Lindsey White
May 26-June 16, 2014


This three-week fieldwork studio in Marfa, Texas, seeks to expand contemporary discourses on social practices and politics in art. It offers a unique opportunity for students to gain an understanding of the dynamics of art in public spaces and its impact on communities.

The small town of Marfa has been transformed by the legacy of Donald Judd, making it one of the most vibrant art hubs in the U.S.: a place where the art world meets, galleries emerge, and a cultural industry has arisen. As the home of the Judd and Chinati Foundation collections, as well as Judd’s studio and library, Marfa provides fertile ground for research. Installed in a former military fort, the works by Donald Judd and his contemporaries are inextricably linked with the surrounding landscape. Some of Judd's largest outdoor works were designed for, and installed at, these specific sites.

By examining the transformation of Marfa, students engage in a critical analysis of the value and use of public art. They also engage with the term “fieldwork” literally as in “working in the field,” as well as anthropologically as a “method” that uses firsthand observation and documentation for future development.

Students camp in provided tents around a central building, which functions as a studio lab. In the first week, local field trips acquaint students with the specifics of the Marfa region: the desert, community, cultural identity, social structure, history, etc. Trips include Big Bend National Park, the cave drawings at Hueco Tanks, and, potentially, Judd's ranches. In the second week, participants work in groups to present research results from these field trips, form project ideas, experiment, and shape their process. The final week is spent realizing the project.

About the Instructors

Shaun O’Dell first visited Marfa last summer to teach the Marfa Fieldwork Project. Before leaving, he studied Judd and his history in the town, but still found himself unprepared for the experience of seeing Judd's work in Marfa. O’Dell was equally affected by the complicated questions Judd’s 40-year project has posed, not only to the town of Marfa, but to the art world that descends upon it. Issues about power, colonization, mapping, surveillance, and the effects of capitalism are all extremely present in this small town on the edge of a desert wilderness.

In Marfa, the distance between where one stands and what one can see on the horizon is vast, and the openness of this landscape produced in O’Dell a feeling of spatial and temporal distortion. Both mind and body felt like they were continually drifting and subsumed in the landscape — as if slowly tumbling through outer space. O’Dell can't imagine a better place to investigate art, politics, life, and landscape. Learn more about  Shaun O’Dell

Lindsey White was a visiting artist at last summer's Marfa Fieldwork Project. She immediately fell in love with the wide open space, the light of the desert sun, and the sense of camaraderie the summer program had to offer. This summer will be her third visit to Marfa; she returns to continue her investigation of what Marfa "institutions" lie outside of the Donald Judd Estate and to further examine the colonization of this small Texas town.

White grew up not too far away — in a small town in Oklahoma — and is fascinated by an international art hub existing on a handful of streets. Marfa's landscape offers a heightened sense of awareness, adding to a greater sense of wonder and realization of the not-so-mundane that often goes overlooked in our day-to-day lives. Learn more about Lindsey White


Undergraduates: completion of at least junior level by summer 2014 and instructor approval.
Graduates: instructor approval

In addition students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2013-14 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies a Studio Elective, Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio, or Interdisciplinary Critique

For graduate students, this course satisfies a gradwide elective, Fine Arts seminar, or Social Practice.

Program Fee

$4,500 + $50 registration fee

Program fee includes
3 units, tent accommodations, entrance fees, ground transportation from El Paso airport to and from Marfa, Texas, ground transportation while at Marfa

Program fee does not include
Transportation to and from Texas, meals, travel insurance


  • Travel insurance is not included in the program fee. Participants are encouraged to purchase travel insurance on their own.
  • In the event that a student extends their stay on either side of the course, they are responsible for arranging and paying for their own round trip ground transportation between El Paso Airport and Marfa.

Please make sure you read the related links in full:

Interested students should contact Shaun O'Dell or Lindsey White ( or to start the approval process for registration.

In-person registration is going on now for all summer study abroad courses. Students may still register as long as spots are available in the class and accommodations have not been finalized.

All CCA Summer Study Abroad courses (including the New York Studio and Marfa Fieldwork Project) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.

Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201
Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs
Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs