Marfa, Texas Just Elected an Artist as Mayor—and It Wasn’t Even Close

Ann Marie Nafziger found out she had been elected when she saw the handwritten results taped to the window of City Hall.

Ann Marie Nafziger, image courtesy of the artist.

It’s not hard to find an artist who is politically active—particularly nowadays—but it is far less common to find one who actually holds public office. Last week, painter Ann Marie Nafziger was elected mayor of Marfa, Texas.

It’s fitting that Marfa would elect an artist as its leader. The small town in west Texas was adopted by the Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd in 1971; it is now home to numerous art installations by Judd and his peers, as well as the headquarters of his Chinati Foundation. (In 2013, Morley Safer did a segment for 60 Minutes on the town titled “Marfa: The Capital of Quirkiness.”)

Nafziger won the election on May 6 by an (ahem) landslide, according to Glasstire. She received 336 votes; her opponents received 112 and 115, respectively. (As Glasstire notes, even Marfa, a town with a population of 2,000, could do a better job with voter turnout.)

Nafziger, who has lived in Marfa since 2002 and received her MFA in painting from the University of Houston in 2008, shows with Octavia Gallery in Houston and New Orleans. (Of course, she has local representation as well: she also shows with Marfa Contemporary and Marfa Brook Company.)

We caught up with Nafziger via email to ask what prompted her campaign, what she hopes to accomplish, and how she plans to balance art and politics.

How and why did you first start considering a run for mayor?
A number of people asked me to consider running a couple of years ago, but I didn’t really think about it seriously until late last year. Folks pointed out to me that I’m uniquely positioned in Marfa. I’ve been involved in a lot of different areas of our community over the past 15 years and I have good relationships with diverse individuals and groups here. I believe in public service and it became clear that it was the right time for me to step up.

Why is it important to you and what do you hope to accomplish?
I think it’s critical for Marfa as a small, remote community to find progressive, meaningful ways to work together, to find shared values and goals and cooperate in meeting them. I’m committed to working against the kind of divisiveness that seems so prevalent in society today. I just refuse to believe that we can’t find common ground. I want Marfa to be a better place for everyone who lives here and I have the skills to help make that happen.

How did you run your campaign?
Marfa is a small community, so I tried to do as much face-to-face contact with voters as I possible. I focused on doing neighborhood events and voter registration as well as newspaper and social media. I also had some key support from folks who canvassed on my behalf in their own neighborhoods.

How long is the mayoral term?
Two years.

How did you find out you won the election?
It’s a Marfa tradition for candidates to gather with supporters near City Hall on election day to await results. Election workers simply post a hard copy of the results in the window once they’ve finished counting votes. It was around 7:30 pm when they taped the paper up to the glass and we found out I’d won.

What’s next?
I’m sworn in on Thursday, May 18.

Do you still plan to work as an artist?
I will definitely continue my studio practice while mayor!

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