Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Members of the Charis women's chorus perform at a recent event, in this file photo.
Provided | Charis

In the early 1990s, same-sex relations were illegal, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy helped keep closet doors sealed shut, and marriage equality for same-sex couples was unthinkable.

Artwork designed by organizer Charles Purnell for the St. Louis artists event depicts the words not my presidents day laid over official portraits of United States presidents with an X over Donald Trump's face.
Provided by Charles Purnell

It’s rare that people find comfort in admitting their fears.  It’s even more unusual to admit those  fears to a group of strangers.

But finding strength in fear, frustration and confusion in a starkly divided nation is one of the aims of This Is Who I Am Now: Artists on Politics,” which takes place today at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester Ave., in St. Louis.

“That’s been one of the biggest things for me, being able to say I’m scared and I have no idea what I’m going to do in the next couple years," organizer Charles Purnell said. "I don’t know what’s going to change, I don’t know what’s going to happen — and knowing that’s OK. It’s OK to be afraid and to admit that.”

Author Rebecca Shuman reads from her book 'Schadenfreude, A Love Story" in St. Louis Public Radio studios.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

As a college junior Rebecca Schuman found herself in peak-hipster Berlin, sitting in a dark, smoke-filled bar where patrons ordered Heineken through a hole in the wall.  She’d wanted to live “Iggy Pop’s Berlin,” and to do that she wanted to find living space in a loft.

A friend told her that people in a a local collective living space was looking for a new roommate That’s how she found herself sitting across from a guy named Johannes who had, “shock of bright blond hair that stuck out in the electrified curls about six inches in all directions.”

Schuman  recounts the experience and a number of other anecdotes in “Schadenfreude, A Love Story,” a memoir. She'll discuss the book Sunday during a book launch at Urban Chestnut in The Grove.

Elizabeth Vega is on the front porch of Art House in this February 6, 2017 photo, talking about a child's chalk drawing on the bricks.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis artist and activist Elizabeth Vega spends a lot of time in her home.

It’s a place in north St. Louis known as Art House, that she bought in 2015. There, she provides space for sign-making and other activities related to protest actions. She also works with local children to create kites, collages and other art to help them process their feelings. Recently, she spent five days and nights at Art House without leaving. An ankle monitoring device kept her tethered to her home.

David Robertson, the St. Louis Symphony's musical director, leads the orchestra in this file photo.
Scott Ferguson | Provided

The St. Louis Symphony will open its 2017-18 season with six Mozart piano concertos featuring Emanuel Ax.

Its season, which marks half a century in Powell Hall,  concludes with a performance of “Swing Symphony” in collaboration with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz from Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Summer Albarcha stands with friends at a rally to show support for immigrants and refugees outside Sen. Roy Blunt's Clayton office. This week, Blunt released a statement expressing support for President Trump's executive order on immigration. (Feb 2, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Protesters gathered outside Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton Wednesday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Music director David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony.
Provided by the St. Louis Symphony

The St. Louis Symphony and its musicians have a five-year contract that will increase the minimum salary for musicians to $100,000 in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The agreement, signed seven months before the current contract expires, aims to improve flexibility with scheduling, make rehearsals more efficient, and update tour conditions for musicians.

It comes after several strong financial performances and a significant 2016 annual campaign that helped boost the symphony's endowment to more than $200 million.  The contract will establish a stable working environment over the next five years – one that helps attract top talent in classical music, according to Vicky Smolik, Musicians Association of St. Louis representative.

Protesters gathered outside the Terminal 1 departure area at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated to include information about Sunday's protest and official responses at 7:50 p.m.

St. Louisans gathered throughout the region over the weekend to protest President Donald J. Trump's executive order barring citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

After a controversial fall season overshadowed by community outrage over Kelley Walker's “Direct Drive,” the Contemporary Art Museum will unveil a spring season this weekend.

This file photo of the painting "Exasperation" by local artist Fabio Rodriguez depicts people in his home of the Domincan Republic desperate for essentials like food and water. It was cut from an art exhibition for being potentially disturbing.
Provided | Fabio Rodriguez

St. Louis-area artist Fabio Rodriguez was devastated when a very personal piece of his work was removed from an exhibition. But did that action rise to the level of censorship?

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.”

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