Though artists flocked to Provincetown, Massachusetts throughout the early 20th century, Bill Evaul moved there when the town's artist colony really started to grow into its own in the 1970's. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Though artists flocked to Provincetown, Massachusetts throughout the early 20th century, Bill Evaul moved there when the town's artist colony really started to grow into its own in the 1970's. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Familiar Themes in an Artist Colony’s Evolution

Our morning host Travis Bubenik has been traveling around Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the past couple of weeks, exploring the commonalities between Far West Texas and small communities on the northeastern coast.

It’s part of our host exchange experiment, Radio Hometown: Two Hosts, Two Stations, One Community of Listeners.

This week, Travis discovered that a place called Provincetown on the northern edge of the Cape – one of the first parts of the “New World” the pilgrims laid eyes on – experienced a reinvention and revitalization similar to what’s happened in Marfa in recent years.

Except, in Provincetown, it happened decades ago. Local artist Bill Evaul was there when it started, and shared some lessons learned from living decades in an artist community and tourist hotspot.

Veggies In Cattle Country: Texas Hospital Formally Promotes Plant-Based Diet

This dish, an African stew, consists of vegetables and legumes, the essence of a plant-based diet. A leading hospital has become the first in historically beef-loving Texas to formally promote plant-based and vegetarian food for patients and visitors. (Lorne Matalon)

This dish, an African stew, consists of vegetables and legumes, the essence of a plant-based diet. A leading hospital has become the first in historically beef-loving Texas to formally promote plant-based and vegetarian food for patients and visitors. (Lorne Matalon)

 

MIDLAND, Texas—A leading hospital in Texas is making a name for itself by taking on the ranching industry, an iconic fixture in the history of the Lone Star State. The hospital is now promoting a plant-based diet rich in vegetables and whole grains for patients and visitors.

First, here’s a definition. “Plant-based” diet means ingestion of fruits, vegetables, legumes like alfalfa, peas, beans and peanuts, and no meat.

Nurturing cattle, sending them to the feed lot and then onto the slaughterhouse, is a part of the culture here, burnished into a big part of what makes Texas, Texas. Now, Midland Memorial Hospital, a major medical player in the heart of cattle country, has become the first in the state to buck that culture.


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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Research Vessel Neil Armstrong. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Research Vessel Neil Armstrong. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

First Week of a Desert-To-Coast Host Exchange Experiment

Marfa Public Radio and WCAI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts have embarked on a first-of-its-kind host exchange experiment called Radio Hometown: Two Stations, Two Hosts, One Community of Listeners.

We’ve sent our morning host Travis Bubenik to Cape Cod in exchange for WCAI’s afternoon host Steve Junker. This week, Steve checks in with Travis after week one of this desert-to-coast exchange.

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Texas Photographer Traces Route of Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico

Texas photographer Walter Nelson has published a new book about the New Mexican landscape where artist Georgia O’Keefe painted.

Nelson points to a map of New Mexico as he traces the route of artist O’Keefe, who made her name in the early part of last century with her landscape paintings of the state. “I went in 30 years ago in search of the Black Place,” says Nelson. “You know, it’s a very elusive place. No one knew exactly where it was 30 years ago, except Georgia O’Keefe.”

O’Keefe was obsessed with a strange stretch of land called the Black Place, where she painted. Nelson, after dozens of visits, “found the rock that she painted on, and where she camped. So I knew this was the place.”

BlackPlaceOftentimes, visual artists will first take a photograph of a landscape and then make a painting of it. Nelson has done the opposite. He’s studied the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe to find the spot where she worked and then – from the painting – taken a photograph.

“But there’s one spot very close to where Georgia O’Keefe did her Black Place II painting,” explains Nelson, “which is owned by the Metropolitan Museum. And it’s her most amazing abstract painting I’ve ever seen.”


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One of the many beaches on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, soon to be much more crowded as tourists flock to the area for the summer. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

One of the many beaches on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, soon to be much more crowded as tourists flock to the area for the summer. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Host Exchange Dispatch: Can Cape Cod Teach Marfa How To Be a Tourist Economy?

Marfa Public Radio and WCAI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts have embarked on a first-of-its-kind public radio experiment. WCAI All Things Considered host Steve Junker is swapping places with KRTS Morning Edition host Travis Bubenik for three weeks. 

We’re exploring what our similarly-isolated communities have in common – even thousands of miles away from each other – in an effort to broaden the conversation around some close-to-home issues. Read more about the experiment here.

Driving into the small coastal village of Woods Hole at midnight, it’s hard to even realize the Atlantic Ocean is so close by.

Thick patches of tall trees line the windy highway in and scatter throughout the town. With the temperatures still in the 40’s at night, it feels more like rural Colorado than a place known for fishing, sandy beaches and expensive summer getaways.

Sunday morning I set out to find that great anthesis to the desert: clear blue waves crashing against the shore.

Even for someone who spent a lot of time on the Texas coast, this kind of coast is exotic. A cold breeze blows in off the water. (I barely even knew you could be on a beach and be cold at the same time!)

Plenty of tourists stream into Marfa and the Big Bend region in the busy seasons of course, but it’s apparently nothing like what happens here in the summer. The cape’s been drawing thousands of tourists – many of them wealthy and powerful – for decades. Martha’s Vineyard, a presidential getaway, is just across the water from Woods Hole.

I’m here just before the tourist season explodes, and the streets seem calm and quaint. But locals tell me – often with a groan – that in just a few weeks, long lines of traffic on the main road in and out will be a common headache. The small local coffee shop will soon see lines out the door, around the clock.


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Your Public Radio Station Just Won 8 Regional Murrow Awards

For the second year in the row, Marfa Public Radio (along with West Texas Public Radio) is the most awarded small-market station in the nation during the regional Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism in 2015.

According to the Radio Television Digital News Association, “In the small market radio category, Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas, took home eight Murrows, including Overall Excellence, News Series and News Documentary.” Here are the winners:

  • NEWS DOCUMENTARYMcDonald Observatory in 2015 (Asa Merritt, Dallas Baxter, Drew Stuart, Ian Lewis, Anna Rose MacArthur, Katherine Rae Mondo)
  • OVERALL EXCELLENCE:  Marfa Public Radio in 2015 (Tom Michael, Travis Bubenik, Lorne Matalon, Mia Warren, Anna Rose MacArthur)

Thanks to all our donating members who make this work possible.


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Pianist Finds A Musical Refuge In Mexico’s Copper Canyon

The short route to Romayne Wheeler’s cliffside home in Mexico’s Copper Canyon is an hour-long ride in a five-passenger charter plane from Chihuahua city. From the air, his abode looks like a glass cocoon clinging to the edge of a canyon wall.

Wheeler is an American-born concert pianist whose career spans nearly half a century and has taken him to 52 countries worldwide. Since his student days in Vienna and Salzburg he has always reached for his backpack and hiking boots in his spare time. His dream was to one day unite his love of the outdoors with his passion for music.

That dream came true 20 years ago when Wheeler put his Steinway grand piano in a dump truck cushioned with four tons of potatoes and drove it 28 hours into Mexico’s northern Sierra Madre range.

Copper Canyon cuts six slits into the earth, four of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Its jagged cliffs and remote valleys are home to the Tarahumaras, an indigenous tribe made famous by their long distance running. It’s here where Wheeler finally laid down roots.

The charter plane lands on a crude strip carved into a rocky mesa. It’s flanked by a handful of adobe homes each with its own tiny cornfield.

On a sunlit morning in mid February, a 73-year-old Wheeler comes out to greet the pilot and a couple of awe struck reporters. His light skin and blue eyes scream outsider. But his feet, caked in dirt and strapped in rubber tire sandals, look no different than the feet of the local Tarahumaras.

Wheeler nicknamed his home “The Eagle’s Nest” for its spectacular view. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase nine layers of mountains that spread across the horizon like ocean waves.


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From left to right, Francis Benton, Victor Culbertson and his sister, Louise Culbertson wait for their 3D designs to be printed at the Marfa Public Library. New grants are bringing 3D printers to several border libraries in Texas. (Lorne Matalon)

From left to right, Francis Benton, Victor Culbertson and his sister, Louise Culbertson wait for their 3D designs to be printed at the Marfa Public Library. New grants are bringing 3D printers to several border libraries in Texas. (Lorne Matalon)

Printing Building Blocks For The Future: New Grants Bring 3D Technology To Border Libraries

MARFA, Texas — Funding to buy computers and software for schools in the rural borderlands is often scarce. Yet several public libraries on the border in Arizona and Texas have recently received 3D printers that are transforming those libraries. The 3D printers come from a blend of new federal and state grants specifically targeting border libraries.

Now, from Yuma, Arizona to the borderlands of west Texas, southwestern libraries are suddenly a magnet for 3D printers and those who now love them.

“I think it’s a way to create stuff your own way so instead of going out to buy something, you can make it your own,” said 10-year-old Francis Benton at the public library in tiny Marfa, Texas.

Marfa is one of most visited small towns in the country. Contemporary art, ranching and Mexican culture intersect here. But Marfa is also in a hardscrabble border county. Now, new grants from the Arizona and Texas library systems are transforming at least five bordertown libraries like Marfa’s and Yuma’s.

“Just offering books and movies and even internet access isn’t enough anymore,” said Marfa librarian Mandy Roane.


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A clear bus lane beside traffic in downtown Bogotá. On the upper right, a mural of Colombian writer and Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez who died in 2014. (Lorne Matalon)

A clear bus lane beside traffic in downtown Bogotá. On the upper right, a mural of Colombian writer and Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez who died in 2014. (Lorne Matalon)

Fronteras Desk In Colombia: Transmilenio Rapid Bus Technology Studied By US Urban Planners

This story was produced by Marfa Public Radio and Fronteras: The Changing America Desk. Fronteras is a consortium of NPR member stations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California focused on the US-Mexico border. 

BOGOTA, Colombia — Cities in the southwest such as Albuquerque and Houston are pinning the future of mass transit on a system known as Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT. San Diego and Los Angeles already have BRT while in Phoenix, passage of Arizona Proposition 104 includes money for a technology called BRT Lite.

BRT replicates light rail and underground subways — with dedicated lanes and rail-like stations — at far less cost. And that is why BRT is a technology that US urban planners are studying at a time of stressed public budgets. And the system that is often cited by mass transit advocates is the BRT in Bogotá, Colombia, one of South America’s major cities.


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Marfa Public Radio To Launch Host Exchange Program with WCAI of Cape Cod, Mass.

This public radio network in West Texas and WCAI in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is separated by 2,300 miles. One radio station lies next to an ocean, the other sits in a desert. But in April, a public media exchange experiment called “Radio Hometown: Two Stations, Two Hosts, One Community of Listeners” will bridge that gap.

For three weeks this spring, Steve Junker of WCAI will travel to Marfa, Texas, to host Morning Edition, while Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio goes to coastal Massachusetts to host All Things Considered. The two hosts have outlined their mission as an effort to spark conversation across what sometimes appears a divisive gap within a national culture, while reflecting the characters and concerns of their local communities.


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Elizabet Abella prepares food that she sells in the central market in Barranquilla, Colombia. She received a microloan to build her business from Opportunity International, a Christian faith-based organization that operates in 28 countries. (Lorne Matalon)

Elizabet Abella prepares food that she sells in the central market in Barranquilla, Colombia. She received a microloan to build her business from Opportunity International, a Christian faith-based organization that operates in 28 countries. (Lorne Matalon)

Fronteras Desk In Colombia: How Microcredit Can Both Bolster And Burn The Poor

This story was produced by Marfa Public Radio and Fronteras: The Changing America Desk. Fronteras is a reporting collaboration of NPR member stations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California focused on the US-Mexico border. 

BOGOTA, Colombia — Microfinance became a buzzword in the world of social development when Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Today, Grameen America has 18 branches in 11 U.S. cities. And Accion, the country’s largest microlender, works coast-to-coast with major operations in Texas, Arizona and California.

In developing countries like Colombia, microloans — $25 or $50 up to $1,500 or more — are a big business. The idea is to give loans to people who can’t get credit and who can’t get access to traditional financial services offered by banks.

One such person is Elizabet Abella, whom we met in a steamy cinderblock kitchen in Barranquilla, a gritty port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. She was preparing the food she sells to owners of streetside stalls.


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The view at home plate at a prospects game in Baranquilla, Colombia. Several players said they're focused on a US college scholarship rather than a pro career in the US. (Lorne Matalon)

The view at home plate at a prospects game in Baranquilla, Colombia. Several players said they're focused on a US college scholarship rather than a pro career in the US. (Lorne Matalon)

Fronteras Desk In Colombia: Baseball Prospects Focus On US Education, Not A Pro Career

This story was produced by Marfa Public Radio and Fronteras: The Changing America Desk. Fronteras is a reporting collaboration of NPR member stations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California focused on the US-Mexico border. 

BARANQUILLA, Colombia — Baseball, a sure sign of Spring, is around the corner.In the meantime, Major League Baseball’s offseason is “go time” for young players at MLB’s baseball academies in places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. The academies are high-intensity training centers designed to nurture and develop the cream of Latin America’s emerging baseball player talent.

However, the vast majority of young academy players don’t get signed to a pro contract. They devote time, effort and expense to chasing the dream of a pro career in the United States. But that often comes at the expense of a high school education.


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photographs Michelle Stocker and Chris Kirk
Paleontologist Michelle Stocker identified a new species of extinct worm lizard, from a fossilized skull found in canyons at the Dalquest Desert Research Station, south of Marfa.

“Lone Star Lizard” Points to a Lush Epoch in West Texas History

Limbless, essentially sightless, it burrowed in the soil for a meal of insects or insect larvae. It was a lizard – but it looked like an earthworm. In February 2016, paleontologist Michelle Stocker announced the discovery of a new lizard … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm.
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Thu. Apr 28 Interview: Juan Williams

On this edition of West Texas Talk, Tom Michael speaks with journalist and Fox News analyst Juan Williams. Williams will be taking part in a John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute distinguished lecture, Election 2016: Are You Voting for a Party, a Person or a Principle? set for April 28. Others on the panel include Allen West, Texas Republican Party Chair Tom Mechler, and Texas Democratic Chair Gilbert Hinojosa.

 

 

 

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Lonn Taylor pic

Santa Anna’s Silver Chamber Pot

Near the 180th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, Lonn talks about not the battle but the immediate aftermath and a memento that, after a long journey, found it’s way to a museum in Huntsville.

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Mondays after the 10 am newscast and again after the 7 pm newscast.
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Regional Murrow Awards at Marfa Public Radio.

Reactions on the 8 Regional Murrow Award Wins

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Marfa Public Radio network (including West Texas Public Radio in the Permian Basin), won 8 regional Murrow Awards – the most for a small-market station in the nation. The awards are administered by the RTDNA, the Radio Television Digital News Association.

It’s been great to hear from our listeners all this week. The station only exists with your member support.

Tom Michael, General Manager & News Director, sat down with substitute Morning Edition host, Steve Junker, part of our Host Exchange, to discuss initial reactions to the awards. The link to that podcast is on this page.

This Sunday (April 24) at 3 PM, you can hear a replay of many of the stories featured in our regional Murrow Award wins.

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Penstemons (Flickr/ Tom Hilton)

For Earth Day, A Native Plant Sale in Alpine Saturday (April 23)

As every school child learns from Johnny Appleseed, bringing plants to the people is good work. Since 2002, the Big Bend chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas has been spreading the news about native plants. And on Saturday, … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm.
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