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.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has so many Americana acts that choosing three to highlight is almost a joke. There are perennial  favorites like Pokey LaFarge and the Bottle Rockets.  There are the alt-country "grandfathers" Uncle Tupelo.  But here are a couple of St. Louis Public Radio’s current favorites. Thanks to  Tim Lloyd, one of the hosts for We Live Here, for pointing Audio Agitation in the right direction.

Courtesy of Butterscotch Shenanigans

Sam Coster had an unusual inspiration for his hit computer game – his fight against cancer.

“The game is designed specifically to deliver a feeling of awe and wonder and immersion so it’s literally designed to be the place that I wanted and needed to go during cancer treatment,” Sam said.

This piece is from Basil Kincaid's "Reclamation 2," showing at The Luminary through Feb. 27.
Willis Ryder Arnold / St. Louis Public Radio

It's no stretch to think that Basil Kincaid’s efforts to unite people of African heritage require travel. But pre-paid phone cards, vinyl sheets and a strong adhesive are also part of the process.

Drone warfare has spread from the battlefields to TV and movie thrillers. And now it’s spread to the fine art world. The Kemper Art Museum at Washington University is hosting one of the first museum shows critically examining drones. Yet, say the show’s curators, the art isn’t bogged down in political rhetoric. It's visually engaging and firmly grounded in contemporary art.

Rev. Osagyefo Sekou performs at a listening party for “The Revolution Has Come” on January 26, 2016. The album will be released January 31, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Inspired by the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou’s forthcoming album “The Revolution Has Come,” we decided to look around St. Louis to find other interpretations of gospel music in the region. 

St. Louis has a rich tradition of gospel music, and our inquiry brought us to some unconventional interpretations. But let's start with what prompted this edition of Audio Agitation.

Andwele Jolly best donut
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Andwele Jolly is a trained physical therapist, an administrator at Washington University’s School of Medicine and an all-around doughnut connoisseur. In high school he could eat 12 doughnuts in a sitting. (Good thing that he ran track at the time.) Jolly has lived on two continents and in numerous states and has sampled doughnuts throughout the land. He says St. Louis’ love for the deep-fried delicacy stands out.

Rev. Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill pose for a portrait. The two wrote 11 songs together in six days just days after meeting at a demonstration.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The pulpit, streets full of protesters and a recording studio don’t have much in common.  But for the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, these three environments offer the chance to spread a gospel of equality.

“What are the ways that we’re going to wrestle with saving the democracy? Music can do that; the pulpit can do that; and engaging in the rich tradition of civil disobedience can do that,” said Sekou.

Terrell Carter's work begins the show
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

A visual arts exhibit provocatively titled "Good Negroes" is challenging viewers' thoughts about racial inequality in the St. Louis region. 

Erin Renée Roberts as Nina and Ron Himes as Kenyatta look at photographs of Nina's late mother in the Black Rep's "Sunset Baby"
Phil Hamer

Revolution is not for the faint of heart; neither is parenthood. In The Black Rep’s production of the play “Sunset Baby,” the character Kenyatta finds connecting with his grown daughter is perhaps more difficult a challenge than enduring years as a political prisoner.

Santiago Bianco
Santiago Bianco

A group of primarily young St. Louis residents have launched a campaign to turn a crowd-sourced photo book about Ferguson-related protests and events into a free educational package for students in area schools.

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

After our bout with melody circa last Audio Agitation we’re going to let things get a little weird. There’s a specific strain of St. Louis rock that seems to draws inspiration from anywhere they can get it.  The music can turn from melodic to aggressive or ambient in one bar.  The vocals may be volatile.  Electronics, distortion, and a heavy bassline are all tossed together in a send up of that old rock ‘n roll fury.  Here’s some of the kickers.

Courtesy Contemporary Art Museum

A plastic bottle inflates and deflates, as if breathing. A thick piece of wood snaps in half after it is struck by an arm-like piston. A bone is crunched between metallic jaws.

These are the sounds and sights of artwork presented as part of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ spring exhibitions, all of which ask viewers to reconsider human form.

A line snakes out of the exhibit "A Walk in 1875 St. Louis" at the Missouri History Museum last Father's Day.
Courtesy of The Missouri History Museum

The Missouri History Museum continues to see drastically increased attendance compared with just a couple of years ago, a trend it attributes to a new exhibit strategy.

Gina Alvarez elaborates on her work with VSA Missouri and Living Arts
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The publication All the Art continues to try and fill voids they see in the St. Louis art scene. This weekend they tried to bridge the gap between art makers and organizations that show art. 

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Today’s Cityscape segment about the musical "Fun Home" included music from the score that featured piano. This got us asking: How are different St. Louis musicians using the piano? Are they hammering away at the keys behind Springsteen-esque rave-ups? Are they setting a bittersweet tone with simple melodies that grow and expand into orchestral pop arrangements?

Printmaker Tate Foley welcomes visitors to his home studio during the October 2015 Studio Tours held by the Contemporary Art Museum.
Jarred Geistreich

Making art involves creativity, of course. But for many artists, including St. Louis’ Tate Foley, exactitude is every bit as important.

Printmaker Foley is meticulous about following the necessary steps, in strict order. One of his first steps sometimes involves ordering from eBay, since Foley’s work explores consumerism using things like gum wrappers and trading cards.

Show Me Arts Academy kids rehearse a dance to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" during the program's launch last year
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine months ago, Marty Casey launched Show Me Arts Academy in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson. The program tries to reach kids in poor neighborhoods who may not respond well to sports, school or other activities.

“When we take that time out and we give that special attention, you literally see their whole attitude and their world just change,” said Casey.

Archaeologists and crew members from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey work at an East St. Louis dig site.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

A year-old fracas in the St. Louis Society has left the city’s archaeology community fractured. 

“What we’ve seen over the past year is a fragmenting of what used to be a really robust group here in town into smaller communities who are allied around the issues that they’re concerned about,” said Douglas Boin, assistant professor at Saint Louis University.

cello bridge
Turidoth | Wikipedia

Music therapists in Missouri who are fighting to institute statewide certification for the profession say that will improve access to patients and secure quality patient care.

COURTESY OF SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE

Immediately after winning the National Spelling Bee Gokul Venkatachalam was thrust into the media spotlight. He appeared on morning talk shows and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He traveled from D.C. to New York, to Los Angeles, and back again before returning to Chesterfield. By Venkatahalam’s estimation he talked to roughly 70 news outlets.

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