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.

Claudia Rankine and John Lucas' debuted two films at "Poetry of Its Own Making."
Carly Ann Hilo/Courtesy of Pulitzer Arts Foundation

While lightning flashed and thunder rolled, more than 50 people sat in the Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s Courtyard Wednesday night during the “Poetry of Its Own Making” event. Despite atmospheric pyrotechnics, viewers sat mesmerized by the projection of poet Claudia Rankine’s movie. It was the last performance held by the Pulitzer before closing its doors for seven months. Current events permeated the night even though this event was scheduled months in advance.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

After more than a week of nightly violence in Ferguson, increased restraint by protestors and police paid off Tuesday night. Though police arrested 47 people and peppered sprayed one man, the night’s demonstrations ended without the use of tear gas, rubber bullets or gunfire.

police line ferguson 81814
Ray Jones | UPI

Despite the best efforts of community leaders to keep the crowd in check in Ferguson Monday night, police deployed tear gas, 31 people were arrested and two people were shot.

While there was no curfew in place, police dispersed the crowd shortly before midnight.

Track Artwork for Mvstermind's “#OPFERGUSON II WAVE 1 & 2 (Westfall).”
Image Courtesy of the artist Mathew Theron

*Warning, links in this post may contain foul language.

The day after Michael Brown was shot, Muhammad Austin, known musically as Mvstermind, left a protest in Clayton, returned home, sat down in his room, and produced a song addressing the tensions and frustrations he felt regarding Brown’s death. Austin is one artist among many painters, graphic designers, actors, and musicians producing work to give voice to their thoughts on the shooting of Michael Brown.

Artists Gather at RAC to Discuss Possible Actions.
Willis Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Racial divides -- in St. Louis, the arts community and the nation -- were the focus Wednesday night as artists gathered at the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission to talk about Michael Brown's death.

RAC held the gathering for artists to process the week’s events in Ferguson and discuss how artists can address their role in the public dialogue about it.

“It’s equivalent to a heart attack in America,” said one woman who entered the conversation later in the evening.  “The civil rights movement of the 21st century is happening now. Here.”

Adrian Franks' Portrait of Michael Brown.
Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Artist Adrian Franks is no stranger to producing work based on tragedy. He’s produced a series of images based on the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement -- a series that includes Eric Garner, Sean Bell and now Michael Brown. Franks’ black and red image of Michael Brown with the lettering “My Hands Are Up” is gaining traction on social media. He recently spoke with reporter Willis Arnold about the image and his reaction to the news of Brown’s death. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

St. Louis rapper Tef Poe.
Courtesy of the Artist

St. Louis artists have responded to the shooting death of Ferguson teen Michael Brown — and the ensuing protests  — with both frustration and compassion. Some reacted as fathers and former Ferguson residents while others actively joined into the weekend's protests.

Rapper Tef Poe, was in Ferguson Sunday and said he expects the events of the weekend to reverberate throughout the St. Louis hip hop community.

“I was on the ground pretty early on in the situation,” said Tef Poe. “When I got to the scene, I could still see Mike’s blood in the middle of the street.”

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