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Ballroom Marfa Names Susan Sutton as Executive Director

Susan Sutton
Photo courtesy the Menil Collection, Houston

MARFA, TX – Ballroom Marfa’s board of directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Susan Sutton as its new executive director. Sutton comes to Marfa after a four-year tenure at Houston’s Menil Collection, where, as assistant curator, she most recently organized A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James (2014), an exhibition exploring the work of the celebrated designer in relation to John and Dominique de Menil, two of his most committed patrons.

Fairfax Dorn, Ballroom Marfa’s co-founder and outgoing executive director, will transition to the role of artistic director, where she will work with Sutton in conceiving and implementing the creative and strategic vision for the Marfa-based non-profit. Dorn has served as executive director of Ballroom Marfa since she founded the organization with Virginia Lebermann in 2003. Lebermann is currently president of Ballroom Marfa’s board of directors.

“Ballroom Marfa has an extraordinary history,” says Sutton. “I am awed by the inspired risk the founders took to build it. I come from an institution where the founders believed in Texas, saw its potential, and wanted to create a world class place for the arts, on par with New York or Paris, and with intense loyalty to Houston. I see this same inspiration and loyalty guiding Ballroom Marfa. Ballroom is a nimble space that seeks out experimentation, supports emerging artists, and bridges different disciplines in the arts through its holistic point of view, which is extremely exciting to me.”

“Susan’s background includes scholarship, curation and the management of exhibitions at one of North America’s most significant museum collections,” says Dorn. “The diverse experience she brings from the Menil make her an ideal person to guide Ballroom Marfa as we continue with our ambitious plans for the future.”

Sutton joined the Menil Collection’s curatorial department in 2010, and was promoted to assistant curator in 2014. Sutton curated The Menil’s recent exhibition, A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James (2014), with interviews and features appearing in System magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, New York Magazine and on Houston PBS. Sutton managed the exhibition Byzantine Things in the World (2013), contributing a major essay, “Resistant Surfaces,” to its catalogue. In 2012, Sutton led the management of The Progress of Love, an international simultaneous three-venue exhibition with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. In conjunction with The Progress of Love, she launched the Menil’s first exhibition related website. She was also a contributor to African Art from the Menil Collection (2008). Since 2011, Sutton has provided research and management related to the Menil’s Byzantine and non-Western collection.

Sutton studied at Pratt Institute and San Francisco Art Institute and holds a bachelor’s in art history from the University of Houston and a master’s in art history of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.