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.

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.

Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts on Cherokee Street will triple its operating budget next year thanks to a new grant from The Warhol Foundation. Director Jessica Baran says the award points to the strength of Fort Gondo’s programming.

“I think that we’ve built up over this long period of time ... is recognized at this point as deserving of some kind of funding along these lines,” she said.

Donald Judd's Untitled, 1984 recently underwent a three stage conservation process to keep presentation in line with the artist's wishes.
Kevin J. Miyazaki/Courtesy of Laumeier Sculpture Garden

Famed minimalist artist Donald Judd’s sculpture at the Laumeier Sculpture Garden just got a $200,000 facelift.

“People see things outside and think it’s just like a car sitting outside on their driveway, but a car sitting outside will show a lot of damage and weather wearing and so on and so forth,” said Executive Director Marilu Knode.

One of the dozens of images Joel Levy submitted to the Documenting Ferguson project
Joel Levy/Courtesy of Documenting Ferguson

A unique blend of technological, circumstantial and social issues face archivists and documentarians who are trying to preserve the events of the past five months in Ferguson.

The Contributor

Joel Levy, 20, stands on West Florissant Avenue, a central site during the protests over the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. His initial interest in Ferguson was opportunistic, spurred by the heat of the moment, yet he’s now dedicated to portraying the broader story of what’s happened in Ferguson since Aug. 9.

ZMD Board members continue debate over ethics code language
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo Museum District’s Thursday meeting was defined by two events: a stymied vote about language for its new code of ethics and a recent audit of the St. Louis Zoo. 

Code of Ethics Contention

The continued discussion regarding language for a new code of ethics drew ire from those wanting to include stricter language and members preferring a more relaxed approach.  Immediately prior to a vote on which language to forward on to city, county, and board council, board member Gloria Wessels left the meeting.

St. Louis Art Museum East Building
Jacob Sharp/Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems

St. Louis Art Museum board member Barbara Taylor and her husband Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings, Inc., recently donated $5 million dollars for a new sculpture garden at the museum. Carl Ham, head of development for the museum, praised the Taylors for their foresight and said the gift would fund both construction and an endowment for maintenance.

“It’s the rare exception and real benefit to organizations when people like the Taylors make a gift that makes possible both,” Ham said.

Nonesuch website

The St. Louis Symphony is nominated for two Grammy awards this year. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences members nominated the symphony in the categories of Best Orchestral performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. Vice President of External Relations Adam Crane almost couldn’t stop smiling when he discussed hearing the news.

“It’s what everyone strives for when you record an album, you want a Grammy award,” said Crane.

Chris Renteria's portrait of an Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper assigned to protest detail re: Ferguson
Courtesy of Chris Renteria

This Friday the Kranzberg Arts Center opens a photo show challenging popular media representations of events in Ferguson. The photographers focused the lives of Ferguson residents, details, portraiture, and children instead of just conflict. Participating photographer Chris Renteria, 40, saw unity where many see division.

“Whether I looked through my lens and saw a police officer in riot gear holding an assault rifle, or a 2-year-old in his mom’s arms as she’s fist-raised and chanting - in each person there’s humanity,” said Renteria.

James and Brea McAnally in the work in progress at the new Luminary Center for the Arts.
Nora Ibrahim | St. Louis Public Radio Intern

This fall the National Endowment for the Arts awarded nine St. Louis-based arts organizations a total of $250,000 in grants. But in the visual arts category, only The Luminary Arts Center on Cherokee Street got funding. Thanks to the new NEA grant the space will expand its international artist residency program. Brea McAnally runs the space with her husband, James. They say the award is a national spotlight for the space.

“Primarily we’re just grateful that the organization has been seen and validated on a national level,” said Brea McAnally.

Mitch Hill's video during Public Media Commons Artists Showcase test
Courtesy of Mike Pagano

For the first time in the Public Media Commons’ short life a group of young visual artists will display site-specific work on the main and secondary screens Tuesday night. Mike Pagano, 36, of the Nine Network helped the artists develop their projects for the space. He says the works will be a balancing act between artistic vision and accessibility.

“Kind of the tension between the artist, their vision and their voice, and what their work is traditionally about, and how to bridge that so that it fits with a space that’s accessible to everyone,” Pagano said. 

Performers at the Missouri History Museum's quest to set the record for most people tested for HIV in one venue
Alex Detrick | Missouri History Museum

On this Worlds AIDS Day, the Missouri History Museum is trying to break the world record for most people tested for HIV in one venue. Yet, Director of Community Partnerships Alex Detrick, 37, said she knows testing people is more important than setting records.

“If people can have a positive experience today and say, ‘You know what? It really wasn’t that hard, that scary, that intimidating.’ That would be exciting!” said Detrick.

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