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.

World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Visitors will have a new reason to love Forest Park in the coming years: a new interactive digital map.  Forest Park Forever’s Director of Strategic Communications Stephen Schenkenberg, 41, assures people the new map will provide an array of useful services for first timers and for those who think they know every inch of the park.

Fred Onovwerosuoke
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans 10 years ago, St. Louis composer Fred Onovwerosuoke hurried to the attic with cardboard boxes.

But it turned out, upstairs would be the worst place to store them. Shortly after he and his wife and two small sons drove away from their temporary New Orleans home, Katrina tore away the roof, exposing reams of musicals manuscripts to the pounding rain.

Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

St. Louis’ own chess tournament -- the Sinquefield Cup -- has established itself as a top tournament in the world of chess. The event itself continues to evolve. 

“The organizers have made it such an attractive place to be that everyone knows it and everyone wants to be here,” said commentator and Grandmaster Maurice Ashley.

Aldermen President Lewis Reed during debate
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has given initial approval to raising the minimum wage in St. Louis to $11 an hour by 2018. The vote was 15-6.

The bill faces one more vote. Throughout the long debate, two factions formed: those who want to see a significant increase in base-line pay and those who fear that an increase will alienate businesses and drive them into St. Louis County or across the river to Illinois. Both sides say they want the best for low-wage workers.

Protesters on W. Florissant Avenue dance while chanting across the street at police
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

As night fell Monday, demonstrators returned to West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson to resume their vigil after Sunday night’s police-involved shooting. 

For several hours, things were calm. People marched up and down West Florissant. Some danced to the drum circles and other chanted slogans.

Protesters and police after shooting on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's death
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated as of Mon., August 10, 2015 at 3:45 p.m. with father's statement, originally updated at 1 p.m.

The man who St. Louis County Police say was shot by detectives after he fired on them Sunday night near protests in Ferguson has been identified as Tyrone Harris, 18, of Northwoods, according to the police department.

Harris has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement in the first degree, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of discharging or shooting a firearm at a motor vehicle. A cash only bond has been set at $250,000.

Jenny Lewis by Abbie Gillardi
Abbie Gillardi

This weekend a new art show held in tribute to St. Louis and rock and roll opens in multiple Grand Center venues. Although the show is held in fine art spaces, organizer Jason Gray hopes it will attract music fans as well. 

“You can’t negate the fan right?” said Gray. “Rock and roll has this tremendous fan-base and culturally it’s this kind of zeitgeist, so it was important for me to think about what the fan would want to see and probably hasn’t seen before.”

Face of the Neumeyer Glacier 1915 by Frank Hurley
Face of the Neumeyer Glacier, 1915|Frank Hurley|Flickr

It’s a frequently shared adage in publishing that only 3 percent of the books published in the United States are translations from books originally written in another language. Although that exact statistic is sometimes debated, the idea that it’s almost impossible to get a translation project published remains. And yet some are able to make it work.

This painting of an officer and an artist wearing a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" shirt, by Solomon Thurman, shows the thin line between police and protesters, according to gallerist Freida Wheaton.
Solomon Thurman

In a single moment and with a half-dozen gunshots, St. Louis was shaken to the core on Aug. 9.

The shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police office Darren Wilson unleashed continuous waves of local and national protest that significantly shifted the St. Louis arts scene. Since then, musicians, dancers, and visual, performing and literary artists have sung and performed, and written and painted the issues revealed by the tragedy.

Cherokee Street Reach participants collaborate on a painting
Provided by Cherokee Street Reach

Last year a group of artists got together to form an arts camp. Initially they wanted to provide a place for kids to spend time between the end of traditional summer camps and the start of the new school year. 

“We just really wanted to find something, or find a way to help children utilize their potential for something productive, and since we’re all artists, that’s what we know,” said founding member Pacia Anderson, 36.  

CAM Teen Museum Studies participants plan the final stages of thier exhibit
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Your cell phone. Skype. Email. Imagine each device as an impediment to communication, not an aid. That’s the idea behind Cole Lu’s exhibit SMELLS LIKE CONTENT at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

“Most people use text messages and that’s one of those things where you don’t get a voice intonation and you don’t read body language,” said one of the show’s curators, 18-year-old Scout Sale.

Clockwide from top left, Damon Davis, Freida Wheaton, Michael Castro, Brian Owens, Lee Patton Chiles, De Nichols
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

For the past year, a tragic and powerful muse has fed the energy and work of St. Louis-area artists.

The shooting death of Michael Brown and the unpeeling of issues that followed have inspired a bounty of work with a social-justice mission. As we near the Aug. 9 anniversary of Brown’s death, we talked with a number of arts professionals about their work in the wake of the turmoil:

60 girls from 30 states and 10 countries compete this week at the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls' Invitational
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

After Team USA won the Women’s World Cup Soccer Championship, people started talking about money. The women’s teams competed for a fraction of the prize money compared to the men’s championship. This pay disparity is replicated throughout the sports world, even in chess. And the irony with chess is this is a game played with the mind. It’s a game that has nothing to do with strength or height.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

This year, 26 St. Louis-produced films will appear alongside films from around the world at the St. Louis International Film Festival. The organization’s Artistic Director Chris Clark said quality, not just location, was the primary factor affecting what films would be included in the November programming.

“They are like top gun. They are the best of the best,” he said. “These are things that we would be proud to recommend and could stand toe to toe in other festivals anywhere.”

Some objects found inside the newly acquired GCADD buildings will remain
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

In Granite City, $75,000 can buy you almost an entire city block. At least if you’re an arts organization.

“This is the promised land is what it is, it’s the land of opportunity. And as much as it may sound hackneyed or trite, it’s true,” said Galen Gondolfi, founder of Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts.

William Morris
Durrie Bouscaren

When William Morris was growing up in St. Louis in the 1970s, his mother was close behind with her Super 8 camera.

Science Center President Bert Vescolani presents a year's worth of activities, events, and finances to the Zoo Museum Board
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo-Museum District board is giving the Saint Louis Science Center a greatly improved bill of health. In the past five years the institution has reduced its debt from millions to a few hundred thousand dollars.

“There’s been a vast improvement,” said ZMD board member Charles Valier. 

Bosnians and thier allies marched down Gravois Ave. Saturday in honor of the Srebrenica massacre
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

About 1,500 people gathered in south St. Louis to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide Saturday evening with a solemn re-enactment and walk.

Original Story published July 9, 2015

  Elvir Ahmetovic, 33, is a teacher in the St. Louis public school system. Twenty years ago, he was a child living through an event that has been called the largest civilian slaughter on European soil since the holocaust

“My parents thought, OK, this is something temporary, something ephemeral, we are civilized people after all, we will not let the situation escalate that bad, but unfortunately just in a matter of weeks they came to our village and started killing people,” he said.

Anne Tkach performs with The Skekses
Courtesy of the band

It seems as though everyone in the St. Louis music scene knew Anne Tkach. In April, Tkach died tragically in a house fire. Ellen Herget, 30, played with Tkach in the band The Skekses. She said Tkach’s loss was felt throughout the music community.

“It was immeasurable,” said Herget, “she was everywhere, she was so active, and she was so enthused.” 

This week marks the end of construction on Laumeier Sculpture Park’s fine arts center. According to park Executive Director Marilu Knode, the entire building was designed to bridge the gap between future indoor exhibits and its already established outdoor collection.

“You know we’re an outdoor park, we don’t need a fancy building we need something that’s like a barn!” she said.

Pages