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.

This week marks the end of construction on Laumeier Sculpture Park’s new 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.

Artists and students gather before new Old North mural of Jesse Owens
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The arts education organization Raw Canvas debuts a new mural of Olympic legend and track star Jesse Owens debuts this week in the Old North St. Louis neighborhood. For 17-year-old Arieona Burse, completing the project was emotional.

Equilibirum by Lyndon Barrois
Courtesy of Lyndon Barrois

Three St. Louis artists are each $20,000 richer this week.  

“It’s still pretty surreal, like it still hasn’t really sunk in as a reality,” said artist Lyndon Barrois Jr., 31. He teaches at Washington University and Webster University.

The money is part of the Great Rivers Biennial award, which also includes the artist’s work in an exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in May 2016. 

Leverage Dance Theater on the House Stage at Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Attendance was down by more than 10,000 people for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ performance of Antony and Cleopatra over last year's production. Artistic and Executive Director Rick Dildine says that’s the cost of doing business outdoors.

Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, MO
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

If there’s one thing Stuart Grebing has learned to love in his 28 years in prison, it’s his Cadillac. At the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, a “Cadillac” is defined as “Coffee prepared with a full range of condiments.“ It’s one of the terms important to life in Bonne Terre.

It's not the only word that doesn't quite mean what non-inmates assume. Take, for example, the word jail. In prison, “jail” is a verb; it's something you can do well.

Joan Lipkin
Willis Ryder Arnold

"Uppity" is a word with a history of keeping women and minorities "in their place." But when Joan Lipkin named her theater company in 1989, she showed marginalized people that their "place" was in the spotlight.

Since then, That Uppity Theatre has celebrated the LGBT population and people with various abilities and addressed issues including abortion and racism. The work has provoked thought, fostered acceptance and won numerous awards.

Mathias Gasteiger, German, 1871-1934; Hercules and the Hydra, 1921-30; bronze; 95 ½ x 77 x 56 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given anonymously 1:1930
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The 15 year-long renovation of the St. Louis Art Museum has finally reached completion. Museum director Brent Benjamin said he hopes the completed sculpture garden will be as well received as the rest of the museum’s changes.

Marquette Park Pool Opens
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Outdoor pools have become a politically charged subject in the wake of a white police officer’s treatment of black teens in McKinney, Texas. This weekend, the city of St. Louis' largest outdoor public pool reopened after being closed for over a year.  In a year marked by racial tension throughout the city, many people in attendance at the Marquette Park pool characterized the event as a step in the right direction.

Terence Blanchard performs with his band E Collective
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Grammy-winning jazz musician Terence Blanchard is no stranger to composing music inspired by social injustice. He wrote an album about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  He wrote the opera "Champion," which dealt with race and sexuality issues in boxing and debuted at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis last year. And he just released a new work inspired by the death of Eric Garner and the #BlackLivesMatter social media campaign that’s taken root in St. Louis since the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Ted Mathys
Durrie Bouscaren

St. Louis poet Ted Mathys has “Math” in his name -- and his background.

“I started out college as a math major. I’m really interested in precision and exactitude,” Mathys said.

Poetry eventually won out as an occupation, but give the word a prefix and math is a close second: a preoccupation. Numbers still figure prominently in his work, including his book to be released June 12, called “Null Set.” So does child’s play.

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