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.

Children hold anti-rascist signs while standing on the lawn at a Ferguson related protest.
Provided by Lucas Alvarado Farrar

A local filmmaker aims to bring international audiences an authentic take on the protests that occurred in Ferguson two years ago after then-officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown.

Director Damon Davis’ documentary “Whose Streets” takes an unflinching look at the Ferguson protests from the position of protesters and activists.  The film debuts today at the internationally recognized Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. 

The Prime Beauty supply store sign that was salvaged from rubble after Ferguson related protests turned chaotic has been turned into a sculpture.
Provided by Bryce Robinson

In 2014 Ferguson resident Bryce Robinson had the surreal experience of watching from a distance as his hometown became the center of national media coverage. When then-police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, the city erupted in protest.

Robinson, 29, was teaching at Notre Dame during the protests and civil unrest that occurred after the shooting. He was struck by the largely chaotic and disaster-focused narrative carried on livestreams and traditional news coverage.

He hopes to remind people of the thriving community that lived through troubled times with an exhibit at the Kranzberg Arts Center gallery.

Detail from Winter Wolves concert poster designed by Lauren Gornik
Provided by Lauren Gornik

For many people, conservationists and heavy metal fans may not seem to have much in common. But for Simon Koch, they're a natural combination. 

That's why for the third year in a row Koch has organized a “Winter Wolves: a benefit for the Endangered Wolf Center.”

Members of St. Louis' Improv Shop -- Tyler Crandall, Andrew Langerak, Erinne Haberl, Daniel Westheimer, Asia Thomas, Sue Koppel -- perform on stage in this file photo.
Provided | Improv Shop

We’ve all had that dream. You know, the one where you’re naked on stage and the audience is laughing.

For an improv performer, that’s no nightmare; that’s life. OK, they're wearing clothes but they're emotionally naked, working without a script, responding off the cuff to random cues from the audience and their co-performers.

"Verdict of the People" edited to include the phrase "Don't sent me to Washington" for use on the Change.org Petition
Provided by Ilene Berman

When the St. Louis Art Museum announced that George Caleb Bingham’s “Verdict of the People” would be sent to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, local artist Ilene Berman took to Facebook to express her displeasure. She had plenty of company.

Bosnians gathered near the Sebilj Fountain
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Affton High School teacher Brian Jennings will never forget watching former student Dino Svraka record an oral history contribution for the Bosnia Memory Project a couple of years ago. He’s still struck by how Svraka, a Bosnian American, captivated his students.

“That justified everything I’ve ever tried to do as a teacher,” Jennings said.

Jennings teaches a class on Bosnian American history in partnership with the Bosnia Memory Project at Fontebonne University. He began the collaboration about five years ago after meeting the organization’s executive director, Ben Moore.

Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

 

During a two-month long residency in Iceland, artist Addoley Dzegede scoured the country’s beaches, fields and turf homes for natural detritus. Dzegede found bones and wood that she sculpted in clay. She wove nets with seaweed she picked up and covered a bullet-riddled buoy with copper leaf.

These are the elements from Dzegede’s first solo show at Fort Gondo on Cherokee Street. The exhibit will also be the venue’s last exhibit; Fort Gondo is closing Jan. 7. It’s a bittersweet moment for her. The artist’s work is as unconventional as the building where it’s shown, and she’s not sure another gallery would have provided the freedom to exhibit her work.

The Dev Diary movie poster features three smiling Coster brothers rendered in pinks and yellows.
Provided by James Reichmuth

In late 2015, St. Louis filmmakers James Reichmuth and Alessio Summerfield were looking for subjects to include in a documentary film about locally produced video games. They found an ideal source in Butterscotch Shennanigans, a game development studio, that “was putting out a huge game at the time” and “going through some personal turmoil.”

Participants in Las Posadas procession, which tells the story of Joseph and Mary as they sought shelter before the birth of Christ, walk the Anza Trail in Martinez, Calif., this Dec. 6, 2014, photo.
Anza Trail NPS

In churches and neighborhoods across St. Louis, many Latino parishioners gather before Christmas for Las Posadas, a 500-year-old practice that retells the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where they sought shelter before Christ was born. For many, the celebrations that take place from Dec. 12 to Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 help keep religious, family and cultural traditions. Gustavo Valdez, a St. Louis resident, has celebrated them since he was a 9-year-old boy in Monterrey, Mexico.

From Radar Home by Amy Reidel, an illustration by Fox Smith and a file photo of poet Treasure Shields Redmond
Provided and file photos

The art of activism weaved its way more deeply into the St. Louis arts scene in 2016.

In this year’s Cut & Paste arts and culture podcasts, we brought you conversations with performers, poets and visual video artists, inspired personal experiences and cultural issues.

Sarrita Hunn's Sarrita Hunn, "Art As...Library"  is a number of books attached at thier ends, spine up to the wall, was displayed at an earlier exhibit celebrating Temporary Art Review's fifth anniversary.
Provided by The Luminary

A St. Louis online arts journal that reaches local, national and international readers, is about to celebrate an important milestone.  James McAnally and Sarrita Hunn founded the Temporary Art Review in 2011. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, they’re publishing a limited edition book of writing from the site.  It may sound like esoteric art stuff, but as McAnally told Willis Ryder Arnold, there’s a lot at stake.

Standing Rock encampment sits under fresh snow
Provided by Kathy Dickerson

When Dominique Aneekaneeka arrived at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest camp last month, she was struck by the site’s organization.  She saw improvised roads lined with tents and teepees, bathrooms, a communal kitchen and large community fire pit. The tribe had even arranged trash pickup at the camp, which for months has attracted people from across the United States — from other Native Americans to would-be allies.

A KSD TV card advertising Corky's Colorama show the clown counting his fingers in a porkpie hat, red nose, and makeup
Provided by St. Louis Media History Foundation

Local children’s television icon Corky the Clown, beloved by baby boomers, died today. He was 91. 

Clif St. James, of Webster Groves, had been experiencing complications related to pneumonia. 

During the 1950s and 60s St. James was a veritable mainstay on KSD-TV. He appeared daily on the channel after school as his clown persona from 4 to 4:30 p.m., but also held duties as a weatherman and occasional news anchor. Occasionally, he even performed his weather duties as Corky.  His career at the station spanned 30 years.

St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Bisa Adero and official Poet Laureate Michael Castro met each other awards ceremony on Oct. 14, 2016 at UrbArts.
Vincent Lang

Two official St. Louis poets don’t always agree on what’s appropriate but they do concur on at least one thing: If you want change, you've got to work for it. For this pair, words are the tools.

Allen Roth and Jerry Eastman both contributed objects to the St. Louis Blues memorabilia exhibit.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Bruce Brodsky will never forget watching St. Louis Blues center Doug Wickenheiser score the winning goal — after what seemed like sure defeat — in Game Six of the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs.

“The rafters were shaking the people were banging their wooden seats, cheering, hugging, high fiving,” Brodsky said.

Today, Brodsky’s tickets to the game now known affectionately among fans as the Monday Night Miracle are on display at the St. Louis Public Library’s new exhibit: “50 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers-A Tribute to the St. Louis Blues and their Fans.” It runs at the library's central branch through March 4.

An uncooked egg sits in stone, the shell turned transluscent by white vinegar. Through it the yolk is visible.
Provided by the Catalina Ouyang

Catalina Ouyang’s sculptures are an amalgam of unexpected materials: a raw egg soaked in white vinegar, marble, fake bones, a printed copy of Italo Calvino’s book “Invisible Cities” and basketball shorts. 

Ouyang uses the objects to examine her Chinese-American identity and challenge social pressures placed on immigrants to conform to North American norms. She specifically aims to provoke questions about how society asks immigrants to assimilate into white culture.

She wants people to consider what for her is a consistent dilemma: “How to contend with what I call the aspirational fantasy of whiteness in what I think persists as an imperialist and colonialist power structure."

Rendering of proposed Grandel Theater renovations depicts glowing exterior of building at dusk with people chilling outside.
Provided by Kranzberg Arts Foundation

After closing several years ago, the Grandel Theater in Grand Center will get a new shot as a rehabbed performance venue and exhibit space.

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation has begun renovating the Grandel Theater and intends to will reopen its main stage by spring or summer of this year. Kranzberg Arts Foundation Executive Director Chris Hansen said he wants the space to do more than just host performances.

“We really want to stay focused on meeting the needs of our broader community and making sure the space connects the dots beyond just the main stage performances,” he said.

Following the ceremony, the crowd marches away from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers holding signs that express solidarity with Standing Rock.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A few weeks ago, Kevin Koehler, the guitarist for iLLPHONiCS watched his friend Monkh Horrell enter the glass-walled studio and performance space at the Gaslight Lounge.  As Horrell and his band Monkh and the People began to play, Koehler was stuck by how his friend used his musical talent to fight for the environment.

Koehler also performed that night during the STL Rocks for Standing Rock, an event they organized. They donated proceeds from the show directly to the tribe, which is leading the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Provided by CAM

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis hopes its upcoming exhibit will help regain some of the public trust lost after the Kelley Walker exhibit spawned controversy this fall.

The new exhibit will feature four artists: photographer Deanna Lawson, visual artist Louis Cameron, figurative painter Nicola Tyson and muralist Katherine Bernhardt.

Although CAM planned the latest exhibits before the Walker exhibit opened, administrators want the show, which opens in January, to address some of the concerns people in St. Louis had about Walker's displays.

Visitors and area artists expressed outrage that CAM gave wall space to a white artist who they criticized for defacing images of black people — from civil-rights era photographs to an enlarged image of the rapper Trina on the cover of the culture magazine King.

Provided by the arts organization US Department of Arts and Culture

Arts leaders from around the country will gather in St. Louis this weekend to discuss new strategies for better integrating arts and social justice practices.

The Regional Arts Commission is working with a private arts organization that calls itself U.S. Department of Arts and Culture to produce the event titled Culture/Shift, which aims to help artists help promote arts and culture as a human right.

“It’s there in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Yet that right is only as real as we make it," said Adam Horowitz, chief instigator of the arts and culture group. "It’s only as real as the resources we put to it and the way that we stand for it.”

Father-daughter beatboxers Nicole Paris and Ed Cage have fun posing for this photo on November 5, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Millions have marveled at the beatboxing contests between father-daughter duo Ed Cage and Nicole Paris. They’ve battled it out in numerous YouTube videos and TV appearances including “The Late Late Show” and “Steve Harvey Show.”

But did you know they live in St. Louis? And that their beatboxing (percussion sounds produced mainly by mouth)  is more often collaborative than competitive?

Hundreds of demonstraters gathered in downtown St. Louis to express their disgust, concern and fear with President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 13, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The largest St. Louis-based anti-Donald Trump rally since his election to the presidency took place Sunday,  downtown. Hundreds of people marched from City Garden through  to the steps of the St. Louis Justice Center, 200 S. Tucker Blvd.,  across the street from City Hall. 

The march began with 22-year-old Basel Isa’s Facebook post to protest Trump's defeat of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. Isa said he wasn’t previously politically active but felt compelled to become more involved after the election's result.

“I want this to show the world that we’re not okay with this, we’re going to exercise our rights, and we’re going to get active,” said Isa. “Stand up for people that aren’t brave enough. We love and that’s what’s most important.”

The artist, dressed in a cow-hide apron, Trillby hat and blinders, poses surrounded by hills of unused asphalt.
Provided by Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Drawn in by the landscape, South African artist Mohau Modisakeng hiked out to municipal yards holding heaps of asphalt in Nbabeni, a township outside Cape Town. Surrounded by road maintenance materials, he donned a cow-hide apron, trillby hat, and blinkers and began shooting the video and pictures that would become the artwork "To Move Mountains," currently on display at Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Modisakeng is the 2016 winner of the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award, one of South Africa’s major art awards. His work offers a look into how artists in other countries address racism and include images of black people. His approach is both personal and political.

War without the gore, self-help gurus who can’t seem to help themselves, take-downs of late-stage capitalism, and a buddy movie about a duck that might make you run for the nearest tissue.  From domestic films to foreign films, features and documentaries, the St. Louis International Film Festival has something for just about everyone's taste.

For the St. Louis International Film Fest,  which starts with an opening reception Thursday evening, St. Louis Public Radio is bringing you our take on 25 key films.

Jack Grelle's album cover. (Nov. 2, 2016)
Provided by Jack Grelle

Jack Grelle wrote some of his first country songs as he hitchhiked across the Midwest, meeting people from around the country with life experience far beyond his own. Nearly a decade ago, he spent time with strangers in cramped cars — sometimes for days — and gained a strong sense of compassion for a shared, but diverse, humanity.

Kahlil Irving, 24, hunches over a clay vessel as it spins on a wheel. He smooths the sides, with his face an inch or two away from the turning.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Kahlil Irving sits down to the potter’s wheel in his studio, picks up an unfinished pot, the muddled grey of unfinished clay, and begins to turn the wheel. He knows the smooth pot will be glazed, fired, and pulled from the kiln, a deep, lustrous black. 

Irving will add the pot to a growing collection of more than 700 other black vases and vessels, which he’ll arrange into a 20-foot-long table-like platform for the grand opening of Bruno David Gallery in Clayton.  Like a demonstration blocking traffic, Irving’s sculpture manifests dissatisfaction with the systemic racism he sees throughout the art world and greater United States.  

“This is like an act of protest. This is a protest, but I’m not standing outside with picket signs and yelling at you,” said Irving. “I’m yelling at you through the monument of the work, I’m yelling at you through the monument of obstructing your time and space.”

10-27-2016: This detail from Edo Rosenblith's mural, "Supper Club," in the Techartista co-working building. shows the artist within his work.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

You can almost hear the silverware clatter, the glasses clink and the generations clash as Thanksgiving approaches.

St. Louis artist Edo Rosenblith aims to capture the conviviality and chaos of the family dinner table — during holidays or not — in wall-sized mural, “Supper Club.” The 10-by-24 piece towers over work tables at the TechArtista co-working space in the Central West End (see image of full mural, below).

Vaughn Vaughn Davis's Sunset Hills, a ripped and orange canvas hangs from a white wall.
Provided by Philip Slein

Updated Oct. 24 at 10:25 with additional media

Artist Vaughn Davis is an anomaly in the St. Louis commercial gallery scene. He’s young, local and exhibiting in a space usually reserved for more established artists: Philip Slein Gallery in the Central West End.

Jim Schmidt, who coordinates much of the gallery’s exhibits, said there was almost no doubt about showing the emerging artist’s work in their project space.

St. Louis rapper and producer Muhammad Austing poses with a picture of himself on his laptop.
Provided by Muhammad Austin

Muhammad Austin doesn’t have top of the line equipment or a world-class studio. He records most of his music in the basement of his parents Spanish Lake home. But that hasn’t stopped him from making some of the most innovative hip-hop in St. Louis — and people are starting to notice.

Over the past two years Austin, who goes by the stage name Mvstermind, has risen through the St. Louis music scene to become one of the dominant voices in the young hip-hop community. Today, he performs at Delmar Hall in support of his new album, “The Cusp.”

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company

PNC Bank will distribute $1 million over the next four years to help fund arts groups in the St. Louis region.

The grants, part of PNC's Arts Alive funding initiative, have a larger focus than just keeping organizations afloat in the short term.  They aim to inspire lasting programs that reinvigorate arts organizations.

Since 2011, the Arts Alive program has distributed $2 million to established theater companies, museums and dance companies. Recipients include Dance St. Louis, Opera Theater of St. Louis and The Muny. 

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