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.

Detail of Soldiers Memorial's cenotaph, the heart of the museum
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri History Museum will be officially taking over management of Soldiers Memorial from the City of St. Louis. The city’s Board of Aldermen voiced their initial approval for the arrangement Friday morning. The vote was met without opposition. 

In a statement released immediately after the vote the History Museum expressed excitement at nearing the final stages of the process.

Visual artist and musician Stan Chisholm
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Having a conversation with Stan Chisholm is like looking through a kaleidoscope.

He seems somber and provocative. Then suddenly there’s a turn; oh wait, there’s a glimmer of humor. Another turn, and he’s somewhere in between.

The Land Sister's project documented salary men in parks, restaurants, and in portraiture
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This past May, St. Louis-based photographers Sarah-Marie and Andrea Land boarded a plane headed for Tokyo, Japan.

The sisters were looking to investigate the Japanese economic phenomena known as
the “salary man,” a white-collar worker characterized by excessive work hours, little sleep, related health problems, and a high rate of suicide.

One set of drawings up for sale at 10th Street Gallery
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Downtown Police Bike Unit is hoping to serve the community creatively while addressing gun violence. To this end, officers organized a show of artwork they produced. Funds raised from the sale of this work will be donated to Jamyla Bolden’s fourth-grade class in the Riverview Gardens School District.

Officer Solomon Thurman, III, serves in the bike unit and his parents run the gallery. He hopes the show lets the class know one thing.

“They’re not alone and she’s looking over them and her spirit inspired us as far as to help them,” Thurman said.

(Courtesy: St. Louis Symphony)

The Missouri Arts Council is giving away $4.2 million in grants in the coming year. The funding is slightly less than last year’s allotment. According to the council’s executive director Michael Donovan, the lower amount is the result of static funding from state government.

“We were also spending money down that was in a cultural trust, and this is at the request of the legislature. So this year, since that money’s been spent down over the years, we didn’t have as much this year to spend down as we did the previous year,” said Donovan.

Chuck Berry
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

This month marks one year since Chuck Berry wrapped up his iconic run at Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop. The musician’s performing status is up in the air, according to Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards.

“The fact he’s almost 89 years old, who knows? He has the interest in doing it but he’s also working on some songs,” said Edwards. 

The west wing of Soldiers Memorial Museum
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The person in charge of the Soldiers Memorial Museum is excited about management shifting from the city to the Missouri History Museum. A bill to do just that is now before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. And   Superintendent Lynnea Magnuson says she's hopeful that the building may now receive the care it deserves.

“This is something that when I started, I would never have dreamed of it happening,” said Magnuson.

Author David Grossman
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Internationally recognized author David Grossman returns to St. Louis this week for the first time in 30 years. And 30 years ago, his visit to St. Louis marked a different milestone for the author.

“It was the first time I opened my mouth in English and I realized that I’m able more or less to communicate. Until then I was sure I could only do it in Hebrew,” he said.

Kali greets his visitors.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Update: This article has been updated to include a State Auditor's approved recoupment of $.0001 for each of the Zoo Museum District institutions.

The Zoo Museum District board is lowering tax rates for the coming year. This will amount to St. Louisans paying a fraction of a cent less per one hundred dollars of taxable property.

Zines like those stacked on Nickey Rainey's table will be available at the Small Press expo
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 9/29:  Organizers for the St. Louis Small Press Expo report attendance at 900 people, roughly double the number of participants during the event's inaugural year.

The St. Louis Small Press Expo is designed to promote St. Louis writers and book makers from marginalized communities.

“It’s important that each of us not only represent a community of the kind of books and art that we make but we also tend to represent different communities in terms of our contributors and the kind of stories they’re telling,” said Jared Rourke who publishes Queer Young Cowboys, "And so we focus on queer issues; we have a lot of women’s issues; we have issues that are important to people of color.”

Provided by the Contemporary Art Museum

What if you held a pub crawl but replaced the alcohol with art?

You’d have the Contemporary Art Museum’s Open Studios Tour. Or at least one of the many ways you can experience the Oct. 3-4 event, according to CAM director Lisa Melandri.

Eugene Redmond, Professor and Poet Laureate of East St. Louis
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

In the past year, St. Louis has been saturated by a groundswell of art related to social justice concerns, specifically issues of the region’s racial inequalities. For scholars, fans and former members of St. Louis’ Black Artists Group (BAG), the trend is remarkably familiar.

What is Punk? chronicles punk history for kids.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Morse first heard the term “punk” as a child while listening to the radio with his parents during the Christmas holidays.  His response was instant.

“I remember saying’ I don’t know what punk is but I don’t like it’” said Morse.

Marquise Knox at the Reykjavik Blues Festival in 2011
Olikristinn | Wikipedia

When the funk comes to St. Louis, it sounds a lot like the blues. The city is known for blues and jazz, not the classic funk sounds of James Brown and George Clinton. Art Dwyer plays with the Soulard Blues Band and says funk isn’t easily defined. For him funk is a visceral reaction.

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend poetry becomes a test of whether poets and poetry enthusiasts who follow a certain genre can cross cultural and stylist barriers in their art. The Brick City Poetry Festival is being presented as the first poetry festival of its kind in the St. Louis region. The goal? To bring together academic, spoken-word, young, old, and racially diverse poets in search of “human commonality.”

Hozier Loufest 2015
Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

According to festival organizers, LouFest this year brought a record number of music fans to the event in Forest Park. Promoters estimated attendance for the weekend at roughly 50,000 people. Last year attendance was roughly 36,000. Though attendance was high, people pointed out things they hope will change next year.

A scene from R-S Theatrics' "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," showing at the Ivory Theatre through Sept. 20
Michael Young / Proivded by R-S Theatrics

In a post-apocalyptic world, what do you have in common with the other survivors? Finding food? Making fire?

Doh! It’s your love of “The Simpsons” show, of course. Specifically, a 1993 episode called “Cape Feare,” according to a drama called “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” by St. Louis’ R-S Theatrics. It’s a Russian Doll of a play, a spoof within a spoof, showing through Sept. 20 at the Ivory Theatre.

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
Bill Smith | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

The Missouri History Museum moved another step closer to taking over operations of Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in downtown St. Louis. Trustees voted Wednesday at a special board meeting.  Missouri Historical Society Chairman Harry Rich said this is a fantastic deal for the city.

“There’s an opportunity for a major improvement in a facility that will still be owned by the city,” he said.

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Study for Kunstraum Munich)
Estate of Fred Sandback, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s first exhibition since its reopening comes to an end this week. The exhibit highlights three artists including Fred Sandback whose yarn sculpture appears in one of the building’s new gallery spaces.

The piece stands out from the other work on display because Pulitzer staff rearranges the sculpture each week. This week Sandback’s piece “Sixty Four Three-Part Pieces,” enters its final Pulitzer iteration.

Chris Kallmyer Bells
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Classically trained Los Angeles composer and sound artist Chris Kallmyer is more interested in making music for inside an igloo, coat-check room, or elevator than he’s interested in writing the next great string quartet or symphonic masterpiece.

The musician is using this interest to fuel a new project, one he hopes will answer one specific question: “What is it like to make hyper-regional music, not just music that can occur anywhere, but specifically here in St. Louis?” he said.