West Texas Talk

West Texas Talk — Marfa Public Radio’s flagship program — made its debut when the station launched and is now a repository of hundreds of local profiles.

The show is hosted by Diana Nguyen and other contributors. The program is also produced by Diana Nguyen. 

In May 2019, West Texas Talk transitioned from a thirty-minute program into an hour-long show.

The first half of the program features discussions about regional issues and topics with residents and experts. Whether looking at immigration on the border, delving into West Texas history, or having conversations about the Big Bend’s changing towns we hope to explore the topics that matter most to residents of West Texas.

The second half of the show celebrates the creative spirit of Far West Texas and features conversations with writers, musicians, filmmakers, and artists who both live here and pass through the region. 

We invite you to join in on the conversation by telling us who you think we should interview and the issues you would like to hear about by emailing diana@marfapublicradio.org.

Subscribe to the West Texas Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts.

West Texas Talk broadcasts Thursday at 6 pm and rebroadcasts Friday at 9 am.

The show’s theme music was composed by Andy Stack.

Recently on West Texas Talk:

Thursday, Dec 5, 2019:
Mountain Lions of West Texas; Poet Sally Wen Mao

Michael Stangl puts a collar on a mountain lion. (Courtesy of)

Michael Stangl

The Trans-Pecos is home to one of the largest populations of mountain lions in Texas. Since 2011, the Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management has been studying the mountain lion population in the Davis Mountains.

Diana Nguyen speaks Michael Stangl — a Sul Ross State University graduate student who’s been working with BRI — about the takeaways from their research on the mysterious creatures.



Sally Wen Mao (Sookoon Ang)

Sally Wen Mao

Later on the show, Nguyen talks to award-winning poet Sally Wen Mao.

She’s visiting Marfa as a Lannan writer in residence and is the author of Mad Honey Symposium, and most recently, Oculus.

They discuss Mao’s newest collection which reimagines the flattened narratives of women of color and critically looks at the roles and representations that Asian women endure in a society that continually objectifies them.


Thursday, Nov 28, 2019:
Aging and Dying in the Big Bend – Town Hall

The Aging and Dying Town Hall at The Sentinel on November 21, 2019 (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Watch the full town hall here: Marfa Town Hall On Aging And Dying In The Big Bend Region

Today, we’re breaking format and airing a portion of the town hall Marfa Public Radio held a week ago in collaboration with The Big Bend Sentinel. On November 21, about a hundred people packed into The Sentinel space to talk about access to resources and healthcare for seniors in the Big Bend.

Continue reading

Thursday, Nov 21, 2019:
Station Update with Elise Pepple; Poet James Arthur

Elise Pepple (Rowdy Dugan)

Station Manager Elise Pepple

Diana Nguyen and Station Manager Elise Pepple update you on everything that’s been happening at Marfa Public Radio!

Their conversation includes talk about projects on the horizon and some BIG announcements.



James Arthur (Summer Green)

James Arthur

Later on the show, Nguyen talks to poet James Arthur. He’s returned to Marfa for his second Lannan writing residency.

Arthur currently teaches at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Toronto.

They discuss his recent essays for AGNI magazine that focus on the importance of ambiguity in poetry and discuss his most recent collection, The Suicide’s Son.


Thursday, Nov 14, 2019:
Big Bend Sentinel Editor Maisie Crow; Helado Negro

Maisie Crow (Ariel Zambelich)

Maisie Crow

Diana Nguyen speaks to Maisie Crow, the editor of the Big Bend Sentinel and The International.

Crow and her partner, Max Kabat, took ownership of the local papers earlier this year.

She discusses her career in journalism and explains how she and Kabat ended up in the newspaper business in West Texas.



Helado Negro (Anna Groth-Shive)

Helado Negro

Later on the show, Nguyen talks to musician Roberto Carlos Lange of Helado Negro.

They spoke when Lange and his partner, multidisciplinary artist Kristi Sword, were in town conducting preliminary research for a collaborative project with Ballroom Marfa.

Lange discusses how the West Texas environment is shaping this next collaboration and delves into the music of Helado Negro.


Thursday, Nov 7, 2019:
Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend; Caitlin Murray on “Donald Judd Interviews”

Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend office in Alpine, Texas (Diana Nguyen / Marfa Public Radio)

Annette Minjarez

Diana Nguyen talks to Annette Minjarez, the Community Education Coordinator forFamily Crisis Center of the Big Bend.

The organization offers shelter space, legal help, and counseling to survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Brewster, Jeff Davis, Pecos, Presidio, and Terrell Counties. There are physical offices in Alpine, Terlingua, and Presidio.

Nguyen and Minjarez talk about domestic and sexual violence and the resources the organization offers.

If you’re in need of assistance, you can call the center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-834-0654.



Caitlin Murray, Director of Archives and Programs at Judd Foundation (Courtesy of)

Caitlin Murray, Co-editor of Donald Judd Interviews

Later in the show, Diana Nguyen talks to Caitlin Murray — the Director of Archives & Programs at Judd Foundation and co-editor of the new volumeDonald Judd Interviews.

Donald Judd Interviews includes conversations the artist had spanning thirty years on panel discussions, television, the radio, in films, for newspaper and magazine articles, and more. The book covers a diverse range of topics which include include art, politics, and philosophy.



Thursday, Oct 31, 2019:
There’s Something Out There

James Kim (Keith Ladzinski)

James Kim

This week we’re breaking format on West Texas Talk and highlighting some spooky stories. 

We’re revisiting There’s Something Out There — a 2014 series about the strange things that happen in everyday life.

You’ll hear tales of strange lights, a horse, and ghosts, in addition to a conversation between host Diana Nguyen and producer James Kim about making the show.

You can find all five episodes of There’s Something Out There below:

Thursday, Oct 24, 2019:
C.J. Alvarez on “Border Land, Border Water”; Disconapping and Sauvignon Blanca Bring Drag to Marfa

C.J. Alvarez (Courtesy of)

C.J. Alvarez

Diana Nguyen talks to C.J. Alvarez, author of Border Land, Border Water.

Alvarez explores the history of the construction projects that have shaped the region where the United States and Mexico meet, examining how the border has come to look and function as it does today.

Alvarez is an assistant professor in the department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at The University of Texas Austin. He’s currently a Mellon Fellow at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is working on his second book about the history of the Chihuahuan Desert.



Christopher Gonzales (Sauvignon Blanca) and Paul Chavarria (Disconapping) at a drag show in May 2019. (Rowdy Dugan)

Paul Chavarria and Christopher Gonzales

Later in the show, Nguyen talks with Paul Chavarria and Chris Gonzales.

The pair began organizing drag shows shortly after moving to Marfa. At their first event nearly a year ago, Chavarria made his debut as a DJ under the “Disconapping” moniker and Gonzales first performed in drag as Sauvignon Blanca.

This weekend, they will host their fourth drag show.

Chavarria and Gonzales talk about creating a queer space in Marfa and about their future hopes for the parties.

Hallowqueen 2: The Shriekquel will take place at 9 pm on Saturday, October 26 at Cochineal in Marfa.


Thursday, Oct 17, 2019:
MIT’s Energy Initiative Director Robert Armstrong; Linda Norden on John Wesley

Robert Armstrong (Kelley Travers, MITEI)

Robert “Bob” Armstrong

Diana Nguyen speaks Robert Armstrong, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative which “links science, technology, and policy to transform the world’s energy system.”

They discuss transitions happening in the world’s energy landscape due to climate change.

Armstrong was in Marfa in early October when the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute hosted him to talk about combating climate change.



Ovum, from Panoply: Eight Silkscreens Inspired by the Splendours of the Great War, 1971. (©John Wesley)


Linda Norden on John Wesley

Later in the show, Nguyen talks to New York-based art historian and curator Linda Norden about John Wesley — Chinati Foundation’s first artist-in-residence.

In 2004, the organization opened the John Wesley gallery, which features a concentrated retrospective of Wesley’s paintings.

The organization debuted a rehanging of the gallery this past Chinati Weekend. It includes rarely exhibited paintings from the permanent collection as well as Panoply: Eight Silkscreen Prints Inspired by the Splendours of the Great War.

Nguyen and Norden discuss John Wesley’s work and relationship with Donald Judd.

Linda Norden was in Marfa during Chinati Weekend to talk about the artist.


Thursday, Oct 10, 2019:
Big Bend’s 75th Birthday; Chinati Artist In Residence Leeza Meksin

Big Bend National Park was founded in 1944. (L. Bartsch / Courtesy of National Park Service)

Superintendent Bob Krumenaker
& Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg

On West Texas Talk, we’re celebrating the 75th birthday of Big Bend National Park. Diana Nguyen speaks to Superintendent Bob Krumenaker and Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg about the history of the beloved parks founding and about what’s on the horizon.



Chinati Artist in Residence Leeza Meksin (Diana Nguyen / Marfa Public Radio)

Chinati Artist In Residence Leeza Meksin

The Chinati Foundation has hosted artist residents from a variety of disciplines since 1989. Each year, the organization chooses six people to work in Marfa for two months.

Chinati’s current guest is Leeza Meksin — a New York-based interdisciplinary artist who works in painting, installation, and public art. Meksin was born in the former Soviet Union but emigrated to the United States with her family in 1989.

Meksin received an MFA from The Yale School of Art and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She currently teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Meksin will have an Open Studio at The Locker Plant in Marfa on Friday, October 11 from 5 to 8 pm as part of Chinati Weekend.


Thursday, Oct 3, 2019:
Marfa’s BBQ Darlings; Writer NoViolet Bulawayo

Adam Bork, Katy Rose Elsasser, Mark Scott, and Kaki Aufdengarten of Convenience West (Sarah Vasquez / Courtesy of Big Bend Sentinel)

Katy Rose Elsasser and Mark Scott of Convenience West

Far West Texas is often described as desolate. And for a long time, in terms of barbecue, it was.

But the recent arrival of a couple of restaurants like Convenience West has changed that. The restaurant made the cut for Texas Monthly’s Top 25 New Barbeque Joints in Texas, and this week, they were featured on BBQuest (a show that highlights secret menu items at some of the best barbecue joints in Texas.)

On this episode, Diana Nguyen speaks with Mark Scott and Katy Rose Elsasser — half of the minds behind Convenience West — about the states’ favorite pastime… smoked meats.



NoViolet Bulawayo (NyeLynTho)


NoViolet Bulawayo

In the second half of the show, Nguyen talks with NoViolet Bulawayo, a Lannan writer in residence.

Bulawayo is in Marfa working on a manuscript and is the author of the acclaimed 2013 novel We Need New Names. It’s the story of a young girl navigating a fragile and violent life in Zimbabwe. We follow her journey to the United States, where life isn’t everything she had hoped it would be.

They discuss the novel and Bulawayo’s fluid notion of “home.”