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.

 Tables await players upstairs at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Today the highest-rated U.S. Chess Championship opens here in St. Louis.  The event is held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis until the closing ceremony on April 13. 

Facts to know:

1.    Prize Money - $175,000 for U.S. Chess Championship, $75,000 for U.S. Women’s Championship

Alehra Evans and Sheila Suderwalla
Durrie Bouscaren

You can tell a lot just by just looking at Alehra Evans. That she’s a joyful, creative person, for one. Wearing a puffy white peony in her hair, sporting a gold-toned animal-print jacket and multi-layered gold earrings, she's clearly into the art of fashion.

The Shell Building
Chris Yunker | Flickr

The Shell Building downtown is defined by its curved walls and thickly spaced windows. Designer Jeremy Clagett says the architecture lightly mimics the shape of a shell pulled from the sea. He also said securing its preservation helps the city’s future as much as its past.

An international conversation about culture on Twitter is being joined by The Contemporary Art Museum, The Pulitzer Arts Foundation, The Sheldon Concert Hall and The Kemper Museum. For Contemporary Art Museum PR/Marketing Assistant Liz Deichmann, the event bridges the gap between local and international art institutions.

A Gretsch guitar in David Anderson's shop he works on for Tritone Guitars
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend local guitar makers will leave the digital world behind, meet with each other, and invite the public to step inside the world of boutique guitar production.

trolley missouri history museum
Rachel Heidenry | 2009

Organizers of a canceled Missouri History Museum event are accusing the institution of practicing “selective history” over its cancelation of a Ferguson-related event.

“It’s a direct silencing of a large part of our community,” said Stephanie Aria, 21.  Aria is a leader of the Washington University student group AltaVoz which organized the event.

Artist Alberto Aguilar unrolls signs at El Torito grocey
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Luminary Center for the Arts casts a wide net with the current show Counterpublic. It addresses issues of gentrification on Cherokee Street and in the surrounding neighborhood.

St. Louis County Police Department Chief John Belmar gives update on case involving to shot police officers
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Detectives are working around the clock to determine who shot two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department Wednesday night. That was the message St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar delivered in a press briefing Friday evening.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar pointing to where a bullet entered an officer's face
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

For the latest updates on this developing story, see our live blog.

Two St. Louis-area police officers monitoring protesters at the Ferguson police department were shot shortly after midnight. While the injuries were termed serious, both officers were released from the hospital later in the morning.

Looking toward Thursday night, when at least one group has called for a candlelight vigil at the department, law enforcement officials announced that the County Police Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol would take over security around the headquarters on South Florissant Road.

Thelonius Kryptonite
Durrie Bouscaren

Ah, high school. The place where you can reinvent yourself after middle school, screw up, then graduate and reinvent yourself again. But for St. Louis musician Thelonius Kryptonite, University City High School was where he started out strong and just kept going.

It began with a little tabletop musical improvisation. Soon Kryptonite, known then as Corey Williams, began living a dual existence: joining marching band and becoming the king of hip-hop. Before graduation, he was already signed to the Soul Tide record label.

The bison will move to Fort Larned in Kansas
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

A bison migration is happening in St. Louis. The stuffed bison at the Museum of Westward Expansion is leaving for the Great Plains at Fort Larned in Kansas. According to Park Ranger Interpretative Specialist Richard Ziino, the bison is making way for contemporary learning styles.

Cheryl Fields ensures the boiling grain is stirred as it's added
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

As with many industries, the craft beer scene is dominated by men. Yet in the past year women’s craft beer groups have sprung up in St. Louis. This past weekend a group called The OG made the transition from home brewing to commercial brewing.

De Andrea Nichols, Faces of the Movement
Atillio D'Agnostino

Photographer Atillio D'Agnostino, artist and organizer De Andrea Nichols and activist Charles Wade are working to create an image of Ferguson protesters that contradicts the pictures of rage and violence often associated with the protests.

Charles Valier, left, and Robert Powell listen to presentation of the ZMD's proposed 2015 Preliminary District Administrative Budget
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Zoo Museum District board member Robert Powell has resigned because of connections with two subdistricts.

“After reflecting on it, I just thought I should resign and not belabor this issue,” said Powell.

Ferguson Firsthand user at True/False
Courtesy of Dan Archer

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be at the Canfield Green apartments when Michael Brown was shot? Graphic journalist Dan Archer can. He’s created a virtual representation of that day based on eyewitness accounts, news reports and grand jury testimony.

Anniversary (B&D), 2012, 44“ x 57”, digital print on Somerset Velvet, edition # 1/3.   Bruno David
Courtesy of Bruno David Projects and the Artist

Heather Bennett’s photography often leads her on a quest for objects like classic cars, vintage dresses and snakeskin purses. Sometimes the props are a little stranger. During one shoot Bennett searched for a pair of brass knuckles, but had no luck.  Bennett's friend was a model for the shoot, and surprised Bennett. He offered to let her use his pair.

“I was like why do two of my friends have brass knuckles? I was a little shocked by that,” said the photographer.

Portraits of Purpose Ken Cooper
Courtesy of Ken Cooper

Former Post-Dispatch and St. Louis American reporter Ken Cooper just published his first book, "Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership."  The book is a collaboration with the photographer Don West and chronicles the lives of influential Bostonian African Americans. Yet, nestled within the book’s 116 profiles are the stories of five St. Louisans.

Show Me Arts Academy kids rehearse to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk"
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Frustration gripped local singer and actress Marty Casey in the days after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of then-Officer Darren Wilson. This weekend, a little more than six months later, Casey and 10 other people launched Show Me Arts Academy, the organization born from her call.

Lee Patton Chiles, left, and Cecilia Nadal
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Cecilia Nadal of Gitana Productions heard about Michael Brown's shooting death, she raced right over to Ferguson. She wanted to participate in the protests and try to understand what happened, but she also “knew that I was looking for something."

Two Ferguson activists have received an award for their writing in the wake of Michael Brown’s August death.

DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie won the 2015 Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award.

George Caleb Bingham painted 'The Jolly Flatboatmen' in 1846. The oil-on-canvas painting is part of the St. Louis Art Museum's Bingham exhibit.
Courtesy of the St. Louis Art Museum

A new exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum tackles the personal interests of a Missouri painter known for his depictions of 19th century elections and politics.

“They are the most spectacular paintings he did,” said Melissa Wolfe, the new curator of American art at the museum.

Elizabeth Futral as Alice B. Toklas and Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude Stein
Ken Howard | OTSL

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s “27” is the work of two men obsessed.

“I burrowed myself into a hole and completely allowed the life of Gertrude Stein to wash over me and to become part of my chemistry,” “27” librettist Royce Vavrek said on “Cityscape.”

George Caleb Bingham drawing
Provided by The Saint Louis Art Museum

This Sunday the St. Louis Art Museum is launching a new exhibit focused on an influential Missouri painter whose St. Louis legacy once teetered on the abyss. In 1975, the St. Louis Mercantile Library's collection of George Caleb Bingham drawings was almost sold off to private collectors.

Professor Lerone Martin holds recording of Rev. J.M. Gates
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The term "televangelist” was coined in a 1975 TIME magazine article to describe a practice now familiar to many Americans. Lerone Martin said that practice may stem from sermons recorded in the mid 1920s. Martin wants people to imagine a recording session with Louis Armstrong and his musicians in New York’s Columbia Records studios as one of the first bridges established between religion and mass media.

Printing press from 1927 at Firecracker Press's Old North location
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Legos aren’t just for building anymore. 

Local letter press Firecracker Press is developing an unusual way to use the children’s building blocks as raw material to create patterns for stationary, cards, and wall art like posters. The company runs the plastic blocks through a press that was built in the 1920s.

“You hear Legos and you think maybe childish toys or something like but I think we’re able to come up with some pretty sophisticated stuff,” said press founder Eric Woods.

Nancy Bell, left, is interviewed by Willis Ryder Arnold and Nancy Fowler.
Stephanie Zimmerman

Nancy Bell has enjoyed a thriving soap-opera career and nabbed top TV gigs including “Law and Order" and “Star Trek." So what's she doing in St. Louis, reworking the words of none other than Shakespeare?

It all started five years ago, when Saint Louis University lured Bell away from the big time, with a teaching job. Now, she's a regular player in the local theater scene.

Marie-Hélène Bernard of St. Louis Symphony
Courtesy of St. Louis Symphony

Marie-Helene Bernard is joining the St. Louis Symphony as its president and CEO.

"I am honored to join the St. Louis Symphony and to support this great American treasure,” said Bernard in a news release this morning.

Ferguson questions collage
Photos Provided And By Staff

Six months ago, on Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson crossed paths on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Mo. At the end of the encounter, Michael Brown was dead in the street, and life in the St. Louis region changed.

Image by Don McKenna
Courtesy of the International Photography Hall of Fame

A new exhibit at the International Photography Hall of Fame bridges the gap between personal perspective and the unfeeling materials of stone, brick and steel. According to Executive Director John Nagel, 72, this focus can be found in the exhibit’s unfamiliar images of a well-known city.

“This is not the greatest hits of St. Louis architecture,” he said.

David Robertson conducts a performance at Powell Hall in this file photo.
Dan Dreyfus

The St. Louis Symphony was onstage Sunday afternoon when their Grammy win for Best Orchestral Performance was announced. Adam Crane, vice president for external affairs, and Erika Ebsworth-Goold, the symphony's publicist, told the performers about the win backstage.

“This is the equivalent to a World Series win for the orchestra," she said.

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