On the Radio with Ed Ruscha

One of the “cool” parts of my job is the occasional interaction with a living artist. A few weeks ago Ed Ruscha, one of the top living American artists, visited the museum. He was in town for the opening of his exhibition Ed Ruscha: On the Road , on view at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) through April 8.

A producer I work with at Colorado Public Radio (CPR) was interested in interviewing Ruscha and exploring his strong connection to Denver. I discovered that Ruscha, and his subject matter in On the Road, both have a deep history with Denver. In 1995, Ruscha painted a huge mural for the Denver Public Library’s central branch (conveniently located directly across from the North Building of the museum). The mural, titled a rolling historical landscape, includes 70 panels that span the entire atrium and tell the story of Colorado and the West. In On the Road, Ruscha explores the epic text by beat novelist Jack Kerouac. Denver takes center stage in the famous novel. Two letters of correspondence between Kerouac and a local citizen are even included in the show. Armed with this info, I was pretty excited to pick up Ruscha and his assistant from their hotel early one morning so they could tape the interview in the gallery.

We arrived at the museum and the CPR team got to work. They wanted to know about Ruscha’s affinity to Kerouac and other beat writers, how many times Ruscha has read On the Road (only twice), and finally how he culled the exact phrases he chose for each of his paintings (one of my favorites is below).

You can listen to the full interview on CPR’s website.

What really tickled me pink occurred after the interview. I asked Ruscha and his crew if I could take them somewhere or if they wanted to stay in the museum. Ruscha thought about it for a minute and asked if I could take them to a marvelous antique store he visited years ago on South Broadway. Long story short, the shop was closed, but I’ll never forget the day that Ed Ruscha asked me to go antiquing.