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.

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.

Images from zoo museum district entities
File photos and Wikipedia

The debate over charging nonresidents of St. Louis and St. Louis County for admission to the various free Zoo-Museum District institutions was reignited in St. Louis this month. “A small entrance fee of, say, $8 for non-city, non-county people would be fair and would help institutions terrifically,” said Ben Uchitelle, the former chairman of the board of the Zoo-Museum District.

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.