By Jeff Martin
A little over a year ago, the museum world was buzzing with the news: hip hop artist and political activist Killer Mike (of Run The Jewels fame) had joined the board of directors at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. I immediately reached out to The High’s Executive Director Rand Suffolk to see if we might be able to secure an interview with Mike for our Museum Confidential podcast.
Luckily, I had a direct line to Rand; he was my boss here at Philbrook for many years before taking the job in Atlanta. After some false starts and many texts, we finally landed an opportunity to chat.
So it was that this summer, I hopped on a plane to the world’s busiest airport for a whirlwind two-and–a-half day sojourn to, forgive me, Hotlanta. I arrived early on a Monday morning planning to do the interview that afternoon.
Not half an hour after arriving at my hotel, I received a text from Rand: “Give me a call.” Uh oh. Not a good sign. Something must be wrong. And of course, we had to reschedule. How about tomorrow? No dice.
“I’m heading to Chicago tomorrow. Just for the day,” said Rand. “We can do Wednesday.” I was leaving on Wednesday and I’d already worked with Atlanta Public Radio station WABE to use a studio. Could we even get in there on Wednesday? “No worries,” I said. “We will figure it out.”
I wasn’t so sure.
So there I was, hanging in the ATL with a day and a half to kill. What to do? What I always do: a museum marathon.
First up, of course, was The High Museum of Art. I spent a good three hours there and still didn’t see everything. My personal favorite was a temporary exhibition of work by acclaimed author and illustrator Maira Kalman. The whole space felt vibrant and joyful.
The rest of my day was spent walking (lots and lots of walking) around and hitting some spots off the beaten path. The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum was hosting a fantastic Harry Houdini show. And the truly whimsical Center for Puppetry Arts offered all sorts of nostalgia-inducing Jim Henson pieces.
When all was said and done, I covered about 30 miles of Atlanta on foot. And when you’re on the ground, and if you’re looking for it, there’s no shortage of street art, public art, and unexpected beauty.
Finally, the fine folks at WABE worked out a short window for Wednesday morning, before my flight back to Tulsa.
Packing up my things that morning, I was going over questions in my head. I’d be talking to Rand and Killer Mike together. I checked out, caught an Uber to The High and then Rand drove us to the WABE studios.
The whole ride over and walk into the station, I was nervous, waiting for a delay or cancellation. The window of time was too small to have much flexibility. And when 5 minutes passed, then 10 minutes, my blood pressure began to rise. But finally, the door opened, the big man arrived, and we headed into the booth for a great conversation. Listen here.