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.

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.

Jenn Malzone of Middle Class Fashion records at St. Louis Public Radio studios
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

More than 5,000 bands submitted video entries to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest, including a dozen from the St. Louis area.

Contestants filmed themselves indoors, outdoors, as groups or solo acts, and some even featured tiny desks of their own. Although submissions are closed, "Cityscape" gave listeners an exclusive taste of three local bands participating in the contest. The contest winner will be named Feb. 12.

Middle Class Fashion  

Courtesy of AIA Website

The board of the St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America has resigned following a dispute over plans to sell a collection of Egyptian items.

The group turned to members with previous experience to fill interim slots. Past president (2009) Linda Bickel took over as president, and former president K. Ann Dempsey (1995) joined the board. Neither was available for comment.

The resignations came in accordance with the demands of the national Archaeological Institute of America. 

Delmar Records launched January, 2015
Courtesy of Delmar

Delmar Records is a new label focused on promoting St. Louis musicians on a national scale. Local musician James Irwin, who performs and records as James K, said the label is like a home for his music.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been offered deals through major labels and indie labels and it just never felt right; and I figured why not put my music out through an avenue that I was actually kind of in control of and I actually believed in,” said Irwin.

St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson announces 2015-2016 season
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Symphony will focus on the intersection of literature and classical music for its 2015-2016 season. St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson said the story told through music can mimic that of a grand novel.

“What’s fun is when you make a concert program and you put several of these things together for the audience members in the concert, they actually hear a story that’s unique to them,” he said.

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

After four meetings held over the past year the Zoo Museum District is taking its first real steps to update the institution’s code of ethics.

“We’ve made real progress,” said Charles Valier, a commissioner who has been the board’s most vocal proponent of a stricter, stronger, code of ethics.

Sebastian “Tech Supreme” Lee is a cofounder of Delmar Records and a music producer.
Amy Harris/Courtesy of Delmar Records

Delmar Records is working to bring the national spotlight to a group of St. Louis musicians.

Cofounder and music producer Sebastian “Tech Supreme” Lee said the label’s roster features St. Louis musicians with strong careers who are looking expand their audience.  

Urban Chestnut Brewmaster and co-founder Florian Kuplent, 40.
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

You might think most brewers start making beer because of the taste, and while that’s true, two local brewers were equally charmed by the science behind making beer. Urban Chestnut co-founder and Brewmaster Florian Kuplent said scientific analysis makes a better beer.

“We do a lot of chemical analysis, we analyze the bitterness, we look at yeast cell count, we look at PH (so, acidity of the beer) we look at how much alcohol is in the beer, how much sugar, kind of a portfolio of standard tests we do for every batch,” said Kuplent.

From Left, Frank Schwaiger, Nancy Fowler, Willis Ryder Arnold, Bruno David and Leslie Laskey
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, St. Louis Public Radio debuts its first arts podcast,"Cut & Paste."

We invite local visual and performing artists to tell stories. Who inspires them? What are their successes? Where have they stumbled along the way? Sometimes, in the conversation, it's us doing the stumbling! But we always have fun. We hope you will, too.

Part of Adria and Her Treasures record "Unde Dragoste (Where Love)?" for The Texas Room
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Local music producer and sound engineer Louis Wall thinks challenging area international and local musicians to produce a collaborative album will help push artists beyond their social boundaries. 

“I kind of like that element of putting people out in their own place - if you stick with someone else’s culture then you might realize ‘I’ve got one too and I need to discover what that is and where I come from,’” said Wall.

Sam Durant's “Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions, Washington, D.C.,” 2005  Kemper
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Kemper Museum is hoping an exhibit of sculptures calling for more monuments dedicated to Native Americans at The National Mall in Washington, D.C., will build community engagement over the issue of Native American representation in American culture.

“We really hope to begin a dialogue, taking this work as a point of departure, with the Native American community,” said Kemper director Sabine Eckman.

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

    

Local band Bo and the Locomotive is releasing its first album in three years titled It's All Down Here From Here. During that time, the group evolved from a bedroom recording project to full band, lost members, replaced them, and was locked out of their own record. 

“It's not what we were expecting to happen when we started recording it over two years ago, but now that it's all pressed on vinyl and in our hands, there is a big sense of accomplishment,” said Bulawsky.

George Caleb Bingham, Jolly Flatboatmen in Port, St. Louis Public Radio
Provided by the St. Louis Art Museum

At a press briefing this morning, Director Brent Benjamin stressed the museum’s dedication to providing exhibits that highlight St. Louis’ influence on national and international arts. The shows for 2015 draw from Missouri-based collectors, artists and designers.

Chief Curator Jeffrey Uslip explains the personal narrative of artist Jesse Howard
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

At a time when religion and free speech often seem at odds, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is hosting a show that unites these principles. According to Chief Curator Jeffrey Uslip artist Jesse Clyde Howard’s work is one gigantic expression of religion as an act of free speech.

“This work is honest, it is absolutely precise, it is unmediated, there’s no pulling punches,” said Uslip. “This is who Jesse was. He was a staunch believer in free speech and the first amendment.”

Event logo

Organizers designed The Art of Live Festival to help musicians, fans, concert promoters and venue owners weather St. Louis’ sparest month in live music.

“January is notoriously the worst touring month of the year for music venues and touring bands so we were looking for a way to drive traffic to St. Louis,” said Brian McCormac, 28, lead organizer and manager and talent buyer at Old Rock House.

AIA website

Updated after the St. Louis Society vote -- In what one member called a “hotly divided” decision, the Archeological Institute of America - St. Louis Society narrowly voted Tuesday night to retain its board, even though that could allow the national organization to revoke the chapter’s charter.

The controversy stems from the local group’s sale of items it had owned for decades.

Zoo-Museum Board Meeting discussing proposed changes to the code of ethics
Willis Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo-Museum District is welcoming new board members Christine Chadwick and Michelle Harris at a time of heated debate. We asked them about  the issues -- proposed changes to the ZMD Code of Ethics, questions regarding the budget review process for ZMD subdistricts, and an increased call for transparency surrounding ZMD decision-making.

Brain Cummings' printed his photos on leather to mimic the application of ink to human skin.
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis based photographer is making an international name for himself in tattoo photography. 

Forty-two year old Brian Cummings never expected his project documenting tattoos to be featured in Taiwanese magazines or provoke photography students to call him once a month. 

“I’m honored and do the interview and then go ‘How did you find me?’ And they’re like, ‘I looked up tattoo photography.’ And I’m like, ‘alright, I’ve cornered the market,’” said Cummings chuckling.

Adult Fur ii, Album Cover
Adult Fur | Courtesy of the Artist

Local music collective FarFetched is a loose association of musicians from various genres and age groups. The group celebrates its fourth anniversary with a compilation album, "Prologue IV," and a release concert at 2720 Cherokee arts space on Jan. 9. The group is united by a will to experiment with genres, use digital means for music creation, and push boundaries lyrically and stylistically. In four years, it has grown to encompass 14 acts that range from hip-hop to progressive pop music.

Thomas Jefferson Statue in lobby of New Masonic Temple
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Owners of the New Masonic Temple on Lindell Boulevard in Midtown St. Louis hope the New Year brings renewed interest in the building, which is for sale. Building manager John Vollman has spent years volunteering at the space.

“It’s a pleasure to come in here most days. You just feel the history,” said Vollman.

From  left, Stephanie Lecci, Willis Ryder Arnold, Emanuele Berry, Durrie Bouscaren. Wayne Pratt was not available for this photo.
St. Louis Public Radio

This summer, the newsroom of St. Louis Public Radio hired five people who had never lived in St. Louis. As 2014 draws to a close, we asked each to reflect on what they've discovered in their five months here.

Urb Arts fundraising poster
Courtesy of Urb Arts

Urban Artist Alliance for Child Development known as Urb Arts, a community arts organization, hopes to raise $72,000 in 72 hours. Founder MK Stallings said the money will fund the organization's purchase of a building in north St. Louis to remake as a new arts center.

“A professional performing arts center for community artists would elevate, I would say, the game for a lot of community artists in St. Louis,” said Stallings, the administrative and creative force behind Urb Arts.

Mayor Hoskins,surrounded by Berkeley City Council, stressed the Dec. 23 2014 shooting of Antonio Martin was unlike Michael Brown's death in Ferguson
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The death of 18-year-old Antonio Martin at the hands of a white Berkeley police officer is drawing more muted responses than the shooting death this summer of Michael Brown.

Gov. Jay Nixon released a very brief statement Wednesday, saying that "the events in Berkeley are a reminder that law enforcement officers have a difficult, and often dangerous, job in protecting themselves and law-abiding citizens."  None of the St. Louis-area's U.S. Congressmen or Senators made any public comments.

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