Willis Ryder Arnold

Arts and Culture Reporter

Willis Ryder Arnold is an arts and culture reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. He has contributed to NPR affiliates, community stations, and nationally distributed radio programs, as well as Aljazeera America, The New York Times blogs, La Journal de la Photographie, and LIT Magazine. He is a graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a recipient of the Society of Professional Journalist’s award for Radio In-Depth Reporting.

Jacob Schmidt, lead artist on the project, uses a lift to reach parts of the wall he's decorating with imagery of fish and wildlife. He pauses for a moment from working on a heron image.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

While some street art is popping up in auctions alongside the likes of Banksy and Mr. Brainwash, some is showing up on the walls of the St. Louis riverfront. And it's city-sanctioned. The St. Louis Streets Department and local artists have joined together to produce a new mural along St. Louis' riverfront.

Giant robot lions connect in order to form a larger robot humaniod with a sword named Voltron
Provided by Lion Forge

“Ready to form Voltron!”

Fans of the mid-1980s TV show Voltron will recognize that phrase as the moment five robots join together to protect Earth from evil aliens. Now, local company Lion Forge Comics will release a comic based on the series.

“I’ve been a fan of Voltron. It was one of those properties that I grew up with in the ‘80s, so it was probably my favorite show ever,” said Lion Forge head David Steward.

Billy Busch enters the court building to attend a hearing on the sale of Grant's Farm
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 9:26 am June 22 with statements from Busch siblings. - The courts have ruled that the sale of Grant’s Farm can go forward.  The only question that remains is who will buy it? 

The decision was made after a months-long legal battle between Billy Busch, one of the heirs to the Anheuser-Busch fortune, and four of his siblings over who can purchase the farm.

A Make Music Piano near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Provided by Make Music St. Louis

There’s music in the streets of St. Louis on Tuesday. Well, more music than usual.

More than 40 performers in more than 15 locations will take part in Make Music Day — an international attempt to inspire joy in communities through public performance.

Provided by Darian Wigfall

“Play All Trap Music/That's What We Want/Let it wash ya brain/All We Do Is Stunt.”

In the first stanza of a new poem, multimedia artist Darian Wigfall examines how corporations run by the wealthy profit from art forms they didn’t develop.  He says the work takes aim at corporations and wealthy classes that appropriate minority voices.

Wigfall turned his poem into a series of large-scale paintings currently on view at the Kranzberg Arts Center. The show is titled “Hidden Messages: The Subtlety of Oppression.”

Shalimar the Clown is Salman Rushdie's eighth novel. Published in 2005, it tells the story of a young man who seeks revenge after he's jilted by the love of his life. There's intrigue, violence, and conflict between tradition and modern society — the sort of stuff that makes for grand opera.

Now, Shalimar the Clown is just that. Adapted by composer Jack Perla and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph, the opera premieres tonight at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Rushdie says the novel sprang from one tragic image.

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

For its next season, the gallery at the Kranzberg Arts Center will focus on presenting variations on social justice art. But the new direction of the Kranzberg’s Grand Center gallery won’t necessarily be abrasive or overtly political, Director of Operations Chris Hansen said.

“It could be very subtle,” Hansen said. “This isn’t an outward projection of ideals as much as how the social landscape and the times are influencing your art.”

Theresa Payne performs.
Provided by Theresa Payne

St. Louis singer Theresa Payne has been through a lot since 2014. She went through a devastating breakup. She lost her job. And she lost confidence in her voice after competing briefly in the reality TV show "The Voice."

But Payne regained her musical footing while working on a new project. When she thought about recording her album, she abandoned the inspirational, gospel-infused style of her past recordings. The result is “Get My Heart Back,” an album Payne says is raw and honest. 

Cropped photo by Roy Cox

The St. Louis Symphony has named Gemma New the incoming resident conductor.

New’s responsibilities will include conducting various concerts through the season and acting as music director for the St. Louis Symphony’s Youth Orchestra. The New Zealand-born conductor also will assist Music Director David Robertson and guest conductors during rehearsals.

Andwele Jolly best donut
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Andwele Jolly is a trained physical therapist, an administrator at Washington University’s School of Medicine and an all-around doughnut connoisseur. In high school he could eat 12 doughnuts in a sitting. (Good thing that he ran track at the time.) Jolly has lived on two continents and in numerous states and has sampled doughnuts throughout the land. He says St. Louis’ love for the deep-fried delicacy stands out.

Austin and Ryan Jacobs share the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tim Carter is with Ryan on the right. Carter plays the role of Oberan.
J. David Levy

“What fools these mortals be!” Puck famously utters in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

St. Louis audiences may be fooled in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production that lets the spritely Puck be two places at once.  The secret?  Puck is played by identical twins, Austin and Ryan Jacobs, transplants from Houston.

The brothers, who just graduated from Webster University, join us for our latest Cut & Past podcast to talk about sharing the role in the play and a childhood on the stage. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Friday in Forest Park.

Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

The past couple weeks have been rainy and a little spooky in St. Louis.

With that in mind, this week’s Audio Agitation is inspired by David Lynch and the last couple of rainy low-energy weeks.

One dancer removes her mask to pluck something from her eye in a mirror while other dancers form a line behind her.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

When choreographer and performance artist Audrey Simes decided to dance to address years of radioactive contamination and the health concerns of people who live near Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County, she knew she had a big challenge.

Dance can be a powerful and expressive art form. But could she use it to cover such complex territory? Her piece, “Tributary,” has been several months in the making. Simes wants the choreography to make environmental issues accessible to a broad audience.

Morgan Nusbaum of Bruiser Queen
Provided by Jess Luther

Dance act LCD Soundsystem, country musician Chris Stapleton and singer Lauryn Hill will headline this year’s LouFest, set for Sept. 10 and 11 in Forest Park.

Other scheduled performers for St. Louis’ largest music festival include local acts Illphonics, Bruiser Queen, Karate Bikini, Sleepy Rubies, Foxing and John Henry.

Murmuration

St. Louis’s first “innovation festival” is starting to take shape.  The multi-focused event, called the Murmuration Festival, has announced its debut musical line up this fall, which will include the electronic jazz project Flying Lotus, electronica group Tycho and the rock band Deerhoof.

Documentation of Reclamation 3
Provided by LBPhotography

When visual artist Basil Kincaid looked for a way to complete the Reclamation Project, a 4-year effort that creates art by remaking elements of St. Louis' black heritage, he turned to his grandmother for inspiration.

A quilter who passed her knowledge to her children, Eugenia Kincaid taught her grandson a lot about preserving cultural traditions. He decided to put the same focus into his work.

Balloons are released in commemoration of what would've been Mike Brown's 20th birthday.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Family, friends and neighbors gathered at Canfield Green Apartments Friday afternoon to celebrate what would’ve been Michael Brown Jr.’s 20th birthday.

Michael Brown Sr. and his nonprofit, Chosen for Change Foundation, hosted the party to provide a moment of remembrance and joy for a community that organizers say is still dealing with grief.

“We just want everybody to have a great time, and a nice time, and enjoy themselves and bring smiles and some type of comfort back to their home,” Brown said.

Audio Agitation
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis music scene is a tangled mess of collaborations, established bands, one-off projects, guest spots, and unexpected guest spots.  It’s an atmosphere that contributes to some of the best music emerging from the city but makes less-hot projects easy to ignore.

Michael Brown Sr. and organizers with his Chosen for Change Foundation talk outside the Ferguson Community Center after the City Council's vote to approve the terms of the Department of Justice's consent decree.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Brown Jr. would be 20 today if he’d survived the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting by former Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. On what would have been his son’s birthday, Michael Brown Sr. is choosing to focus on his son’s life, not just his death.

A series of Stratocaster style guitars rendered in dark purples and bright greens splashes across the page.
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

It can be hard to keep guitars sounding fresh in the face of so much experimentation in contemporary music. Guitars are often paired with electronics or heavily processed when they appear in pop music, if they appear at all. Yet, three St. Louis groups have released excellent songs in the past month that place the guitar front and center.

Beardy Eric Hall stand with coffee cup
Provided by RJ Hartbeck

Dogs barking, water boiling and being poured, and rough recordings are not the sounds most listeners associate with musical powerhouse Alarm Will Sound. Yet its current collaboration with local electronic musician Eric Hall incorporates those ambient sounds in new project. 

Hall’s composition explores the messiness of digital communication. To that end, Hall asked the group's members to take an unexpected approach to recording.

"Is that Kafka?" cover and Kurt Beals
Kurt Beals | Provided

Even if the iconic German-language writer Franz Kafka doesn’t cross your mind on a regular basis, you may still hear the adjective “Kafkaesque” from time to time and think: gloomy, nonsensical.

But a St. Louis translator says Kafka was darn near a jolly, optimistic fellow.

David Gonsier as an owl and Levi Hernandez as Papageno in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis 2014 production of The Magic Flute.
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Today was a good day for St. Louis arts organizations. PNC Bank’s Arts Alive funding initiative announced it will distribute $250,000 to nine local groups.  The National Endowment for the Arts also announced it would split $120,000 among three other groups.

The PNC funding will support innovative programming and improved accessibility to the arts. One recipient, the St. Louis Symphony, will use its $40,000 to create an app that teaches kids about classical instruments.

Nanette Boileau, Dakota Territory (still), 2015. HD video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist.
Provided by CAM

Each artist in this year's Great Rivers Biennial addresses individual aspects of living in the Midwest and the influence of various economic factors on those experiences.  

Jeffery Uslip, the Contemporary Art Museum's deputy director for exhibitions and programs, said the artists stake claims to individual and complex portraits of living in the broader Midwest.

“When you’re in this region the challenges one faces and the issues that come to the fore are so raw and real, they’re not mediated, they’re very local and very specific and very immediate,” Uslip said.

LAURA HEIDOTTEN | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

The split record is a chance for bands to unite fan-bases, reduce album costs, and produce one-off collaborations.

Sometimes it’s a chance for well-known groups to support lesser known acts.

Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

Pop music often falls into the tropes of love, desire, and wanting things you can’t have or had and lost. In real life these feelings can lead to inertia, melancholia, and ennui.

So what happens when those sentiments are expressed through huge melodies and danceable beats? 

There’s a group of young St. Louis-born musicians who have toured the country and developed strong online fan bases, despite having released only handfuls of tracks.  Their songs are connected stylistically and thematically by this exploration of pairing propulsive beats with a sense of want.

Ron Campbell's Blue Meanie reclines on the words "all you need is love" whith the Yellow Submarine in the background.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Beatles seem to be invading St. Louis once again. This summer Paul McCartney will perform at Busch Stadium, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles's legendary performance at the old stadium. This weekend provides a chance to meet an artist who helped build the group's legacy, Ron Campbell.

“The Beatles fans, they spend their whole life remembering,” said Campbell, who also worked on popular kids cartoons. “Then there’s all the fans of the cartoons; the "Scooby-Doo" fans and all the childhood memories that they have.”

Connor Wright seated on his trio of Stan Musial portraits at Ballpark Village. Wright used 5,980 Rubik's Cubes to make the piece.
Connor Wright | Provided

Baseball is a game of numbers: batting average , RBIs. ERA.

But Connor Wright had to come up with a different kind of number for a project honoring St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial: how many Rubik’s Cubes it would  take to create a 205-square-foot mural with a trio of images of the famous #6.

Billy Busch enters the court building to attend a hearing on the sale of Grant's Farm
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Five of six Busch siblings were in court Tuesday over the potential $26 million sale of Grant’s Farm from the Busch Family Trust.

Billy Busch has offered to buy Grant's Farm. His siblings, Gertrude Busch Valentine, Peter W. Busch, Andrew D. Busch, and Beatrice Busch von Gontard, have made a competing offer. Yet, in court the family sat on the same bench.

Image of gridded room with free-floating squares that look like screens into another universe.
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

Destruction, reinvention and the Anthropocene. Adult Fur’s, all-too prescient new album MYU tackles these concerns while acknowledging that the time may be too late for us humans.  In a recent RFT review by Christian Schaeffer the album is characterized as “dystopic” and in this age of political and ecological sturm und drang we decided to lean into that classification and see what other “dystopic music” is burbling up through the city’s pavement.

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