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Chinati Foundation’s director steps down after nearly nine years at the Marfa arts organization

Jenny Moore was appointed as Chinati’s director in 2013. Last month, the non-profit that preserves the work of the late minimalist artist Donald Judd announced she would be stepping down effective July 31.

By Travis Bubenik

Jenny Moore, director of the Chinati Foundation, has stepped down from that role after leading the Marfa arts organization since 2013.

Chinati first announced Moore’s planned departure in early July, saying it would appoint former Chief Operations Officer Marella Consolini as an interim director while an “international” search for a new permanent director gets underway.

Marfa Public Radio recently sat down with Moore to discuss her time at Chinati and the news of her stepping down, which was effective July 31.

Interview Highlights

On what Moore described as a joint decision to leave Chinati

“This was a decision between me and the board [of directors],” Moore said. “We are at a really exciting time for Chinati.”

Moore pointed to the organization’s recent completion of a first part of a multi-year renovation and reservation plan, which included the restoration and reopening of Chinati’s “Chamberlain building” in downtown Marfa. The historic building houses large-scale works by the renowned American sculptor John Chamberlain.

“Having come through the pandemic and completed the Chamberlain restoration, it seemed like a really good time for a transition, for both me and the institution,” Moore said.

On what she views as her biggest accomplishment

Moore described her biggest accomplishment at the organization as being “the opportunity to open Chinati more broadly, both in terms of engagement with the community and the art world at large.”

“It was very important for me in my time at Chinati to champion the work of female artists, scholars and art professionals, to create really strong partnerships with the local Marfa community and bring in a diverse range of voices,” she said.

Moore said her tenure at the organization was an opportunity to “find space for everyone who finds relevance and resonance in what Judd created at Chinati.”

On the 2021 dustup over Chinati letting go of a longtime employee

Last Spring, the organization’s decision to not renew the contract of a longtime employee sparked a backlash among some in the art world. A long list of artists and people with ties to Chinati decried the decision in the Big Bend Sentinel’s opinion pages.

Asked whether that incident was a hint of broader turmoil at Chinati, Moore said “change at any organization is inevitable” and that Chinati has historically gone through multiple “significant periods of change.”

“Of course, the most profound one was when Judd passed away quite suddenly,” Moore said. “Prior to that was a break with [the Dia Foundation], who had been strongly supporting Chinati financially, but the institution has weathered through several eras.”

“It’s always important while staying true to Chinati’s mission to understand what kind of changes might need to happen in order to create a strong work environment to be in service to the artists and the art that we protect,” she said. “Those are always complicated situations.”

On her advice to whoever winds up filling her shoes

Moore said whoever is selected to fill the role of director in the long-term should have a “commitment to the art and the artists.”

“It’s really that commitment to supporting things that are unconventional and can be challenging.” she said. “It’s really believing the power of art to take us to places we can’t get to on our own, that’s certainly the situation at Chinati.”

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.