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.

chef taste 2014
Provided by Taste of St. Louis

Taste of St. Louis begins today and closes Sunday. This year, the festival announced a change in location from downtown St. Louis to Chesterfield. The event’s relocation has been a hot-button issue for some St. Louis residents. Former school teacher  and lifelong Ferguson resident Jerry Benner, 70, believes the change redefined the event.

“It’s not taste St. Louis. It’s taste of Chesterfield,” Benner said.

The Kemper Center For Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Laila Wessel | Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden has been awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $140,605. The money will go toward developing the Botanical Garden’s IMAGINE program. IMAGINE stands for Innovative Modeling Across the Garden to Investigate Neighborhood Ecology. The project will form a partnership between the Botanical Garden and nearby schools to teach kids about environmental issues in their communities.

Steve Pozaric
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Fair Saint Louis Foundation and the city of St. Louis announced Wednesday that Fair St. Louis 2015 would be returning to Forest Park. The fair was held in the same location this year. New General Chairman Steve Pozaric hopes to top this year’s estimated attendance of 250,000 people. He attributes the draw to the fair’s rich history.

From left, Lubaba Abdullah, Donna Fisher and Rori Picker Neiss
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The veil can be a contentious symbol in American culture and is often portrayed as a garment of oppressive fundamentalism. Wednesday night three women gathered to share personal stories about their choice to embrace or relinquish the veil. They addressed the complicated cultural perception of the veil.

Detail from the poster for Purlie
The Black Rep website

The musical "Purlie" is a “biting satire” about race relations according to The Black Rep founder Ron Himes. Himes is adamant about the show’s contemporary relevance in view of the Ferguson protests.

“The play deals with civil rights issues; it deals with racial bigotry; it deals with Southern white privilege and a community that is not willing to change and integrate; and that all sounds very familiar,” he said.

The one and only Cake lights up the stage at the 5th Annual Loufest Saturday Night
Brian Villa | Special to St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend an estimated 36,000 people from out of state and the surrounding area gathered in St. Louis for LouFest 2014, the little music festival that could. In just four years, the weekend-long concert has grown so much that founder Brian Cohen partnered with production company C3 Presents to help handle logistics, bring in bigger names and expand concert amenities.

Fabiano Caruana
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Saturday night, Italian Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana finalized his first place standing in the Sinquefield Cup. Caruana established himself quickly in the tournament, working methodically through a seven-game winning streak. This streak was halted by an 8th round draw with the Norwegian reigning world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen. 

Flaming Lips at LouFest 2012
St. Louis Beacon file photo

Since 2010, LouFest has grown from local festival into a nationally known music experience. LouFest returns this weekend to Forest Park. The two-day national music festival includes headliners Arctic Monkeys and Outkast and local bands Pretty Little Empire and Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters. Festival Founder Brian Cohen said he expected this type of growth.

“I didn’t think about a small little indie festival, I thought about a national draw for St. Louis,” said Cohen.

The flood wall is being prepped and will be filled with new graffiti art.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend kicks off the second year of the Paint Louis’ reboot. Over the next three days, graffiti artists from around the country will gather in St Louis to paint the flood wall protecting downtown The original event began in 1995 and ran through 2001. It was shut down after too many artists painted in unsanctioned areas. One of the original organizers and graffiti artists Jona Anderson, better known as Stun or Stun1, has returned to the city. Although he now lives in Minneapolis, he’s glad to be back in St. Louis.

Department of Justice official Rita Valenciano speaks to people assembled at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in St. Louis.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Two representatives of the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice, Eric Dean and Rita Valenciano, stressed they were reporting the needs of the St. Louis community to their superiors.  Although the goal of the evening was set as a time for community members to ask questions of the two representatives, little insight emerged as to their roll. Valenciano stressed she was in Ferguson Aug. 10 and immediately began working with community groups to facilitate dialogue with law enforcement and government agencies.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, left, and Magnus Carlsen played to a draw in their first game in the Sinquefield Cup.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

This year’s Sinquefield Cup chess championship is underway here in St. Louis and it’s billed as the strongest chess tournament in the history of the sport. The tournament features six of the top nine players in the world and takes place at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. The compete for a first place prize of $100,000. Before the end of the tournament, each player will play every other player twice.

Tef Poe performed at the benefit for Brown family August 2014
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Aug. 24 benefit concert for Michael Brown’s family featured some of St. Louis’ best young hip hop talent. Organized by the S.L.U.M. Fest organizers and held at midtown club Plush, the public face of the concert focused on raising money for Michael Brown’s family. Yet event organizers wanted the event to be more than just a tool for gathering donations.

Marshall Peeples joined the measured protests that went on Friday night.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

In Ferguson Friday night, displays of frustration gave way to reflection and thoughts of building something from tragedy. Protesters came out, but the numbers were down and the focus of many shifted to plans to provide food and educational resources to local kids and registering voters.

Nathan Grey, 25, was out to support Ferguson through voter registration. He sees voting as a tool to combat issues he feels led to the past week’s events in Ferguson.

RAC member organizes and discusses artist ideas for actions regarding the death of Michael Brown.
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The first artists meeting held to discuss artists organizing around death of Michael Brown at the Regional Arts Commission was filled with discussion of racial divide and catharsis. The second meeting, held one week later, focused on planning and displayed a higher level of organization.

“We really had to come in and declare here this is what we’re ready to do. Let’s roll up our sleeves!” said Ed Reggi, 43, artist and actor. Reggi is the primary facilitator of the event. He noted a change in tone from one week to the next.

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.”