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.


Washington University
10:14 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Challenges Face Project Documenting Protests in Ferguson

One of the dozens of images Joel Levy submitted to the Documenting Ferguson project
Credit Joel Levy/Courtesy of Documenting Ferguson

A unique blend of technological, circumstantial and social issues face archivists and documentarians who are trying to preserve the events of the past five months in Ferguson.

The Contributor

Joel Levy, 20, stands on West Florissant Avenue, a central site during the protests over the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. His initial interest in Ferguson was opportunistic, spurred by the heat of the moment, yet he’s now dedicated to portraying the broader story of what’s happened in Ferguson since Aug. 9.

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Quorum Denied
6:25 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Zoo Museum District Makes No Progress On Ethics Code; Zoo Audit Accepted

ZMD Board members continue debate over ethics code language
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo Museum District’s Thursday meeting was defined by two events: a stymied vote about language for its new code of ethics and a recent audit of the St. Louis Zoo. 

Code of Ethics Contention

The continued discussion regarding language for a new code of ethics drew ire from those wanting to include stricter language and members preferring a more relaxed approach.  Immediately prior to a vote on which language to forward on to city, county, and board council, board member Gloria Wessels left the meeting.

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Continued Expansion
5:18 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

St. Louis Art Museum Builds $5 Million Sculpture Garden

St. Louis Art Museum East Building
Credit Jacob Sharp/Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems

St. Louis Art Museum board member Barbara Taylor and her husband Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings, Inc., recently donated $5 million dollars for a new sculpture garden at the museum. Carl Ham, head of development for the museum, praised the Taylors for their foresight and said the gift would fund both construction and an endowment for maintenance.

“It’s the rare exception and real benefit to organizations when people like the Taylors make a gift that makes possible both,” Ham said.

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John Adams
5:13 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

St. Louis Symphony Nominated For Two Grammy Awards

Album cover for Grammy-nominated St. Louis Symphony recording
Credit Nonesuch website

The St. Louis Symphony is nominated for two Grammy awards this year. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences members nominated the symphony in the categories of Best Orchestral performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. Vice President of External Relations Adam Crane almost couldn’t stop smiling when he discussed hearing the news.

“It’s what everyone strives for when you record an album, you want a Grammy award,” said Crane.

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Kranzberg Arts Center
9:37 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Ferguson Photo Show Challenges Expectations For Protest Imagery

Chris Renteria's portrait of an Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper assigned to protest detail
Credit Courtesy of Chris Renteria

This Friday the Kranzberg Arts Center opens a photo show challenging popular media representations of events in Ferguson. The photographers focused the lives of Ferguson residents, details, portraiture, and children instead of just conflict. Participating photographer Chris Renteria, 40, saw unity where many see division.

“Whether I looked through my lens and saw a police officer in riot gear holding an assault rifle, or a 2-year-old in his mom’s arms as she’s fist-raised and chanting - in each person there’s humanity,” said Renteria.

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Cherokee Street
5:47 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

The Luminary Receives First National Funding; Eight Others Also Get NEA Grants

James and Brea McAnally during construction of the Luminary Center for the Arts.
Credit Nora Ibrahim | St. Louis Public Radio Intern

This fall the National Endowment for the Arts awarded nine St. Louis-based arts organizations a total of $250,000 in grants. But in the visual arts category, only The Luminary Arts Center on Cherokee Street got funding. Thanks to the new NEA grant the space will expand its international artist residency program. Brea McAnally runs the space with her husband, James. They say the award is a national spotlight for the space.

“Primarily we’re just grateful that the organization has been seen and validated on a national level,” said Brea McAnally.

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Videos On Display
2:19 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

New Artist Showcase Comes To The Public Media Commons

Mitch Hill's video during Public Media Commons Artists Showcase test
Credit Courtesy of Mike Pagano

For the first time in the Public Media Commons’ short life a group of young visual artists will display site-specific work on the main and secondary screens Tuesday night. Mike Pagano, 36, of the Nine Network helped the artists develop their projects for the space. He says the works will be a balancing act between artistic vision and accessibility.

“Kind of the tension between the artist, their vision and their voice, and what their work is traditionally about, and how to bridge that so that it fits with a space that’s accessible to everyone,” Pagano said. 

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Removing stigma
2:27 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Missouri History Museum Hosts A Day Of HIV Testing

Performers at the Missouri History Museum's quest to set the record for most people tested for HIV in one venue
Credit Alex Detrick | Missouri History Museum

On this Worlds AIDS Day, the Missouri History Museum is trying to break the world record for most people tested for HIV in one venue. Yet, Director of Community Partnerships Alex Detrick, 37, said she knows testing people is more important than setting records.

“If people can have a positive experience today and say, ‘You know what? It really wasn’t that hard, that scary, that intimidating.’ That would be exciting!” said Detrick.

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Local Bands
11:43 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

Looking Back At 10 Years Of Kentucky Knife Fight

James Baker performs with Kentucky Knife Fight at Off Broadway
Credit Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

For 10 years the band Kentucky Knife Fight, an institution in St. Louis’ indie rock community, pursued a sound that stood out from the crowd.

“I would want people to remember us for the fact that we never compromised our sound, we never tried to fit into a box,” said James Baker, 31, the band’s drummer.

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Tension Less In Shaw
5:57 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Violence Diminishes In Ferguson, As Law Enforcement Ramps Up

On South Florissant Road
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The second day of post-grand jury protest in Ferguson unfolded in a familiar pattern. It began peacefully and ended with broken windows, tear gas and instructions to disperse. Forty-five people were arrested, the majority for misdemeanor offenses.

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