“You have to really want to be here,” Keith Abrahamsson says, overlooking the small West Texas town of Marfa.
We’re sitting on the deck of a stone and adobe house just off Highway 90, positioned atop a hill. Since 2014, the label Abrahamsson founded, Mexican Summer, has hosted the annual Marfa Myths festival here with arts nonprofit Ballroom Marfa. Initially a single performance at local venue El Cosmico, the gathering has bloomed into a four-day multidisciplinary happening, dedicated to blurring the lines between cinema, literature, art, and music.
Below us, a rooster crows and a couple dogs fitfully bark. Abrahamsson, wearing a denim jacket and faded Levis, leans back in his chair and considers my question: What keeps him coming back to Marfa?
“It’s kind of hard to articulate,” Abrahamsson says. “But it does feel like the town has this magical something. I don’t know if it’s the remote location, or the super-dramatic landscape and sky. There’s something about it that just has this seemingly magnetic pull. I don’t know how to articulate what about it gives you the feeling that it’s a special place, but it does have that quality.”
Marfa’s specialness is a reminder that there’s no such thing as “nowhere.” Despite its relative geographic remoteness — it’s located about six hours west of Austin and a three-hour drive from El Paso — Marfa feels alive in an indefinable way, pulsing with a vibrancy most small, mostly isolated communities in America can’t anymore, their industries and prospects dried up. Though regular injections of New Yorkers, Angelinos, and big city entrepreneurs — via festivals like Marfa Myths, the Marfa Film Festival, and the Chinati Weekend — bring clout and cash to the town, it’s not a hectic place. Which is precisely why everything feels so charming: Things happen here, at their own gentle pace.