Rachel Otwell

Journalist / The Scene Blog

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Read Rachel's "The Scene" blog.

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community, and diverse culture. She produces WUIS' original program, Illinois Edition. She also hosts The Scene, which airs on Fridays and features cultural happenings in the central Illinois region.

 She's a 2012 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. While working toward that degree she spent a session covering the state legislature for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees from UIS in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, DC. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

Hello friends. This week, Scott and I have decided to step back & reminisce over the birth and first months of this lil' venture. We both are wild about art &  culture in virtually all of its forms, and we know many of you are too!

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Last Friday night, I found myself back at a place I had visited several times before.  What was recently a since moved artist co-op on the corner of South Grand Avenue and Pasfield Street known as The Pharmacy is finding life as yet another incarnation. The bottom has become a tattoo parlor - the loft above is a new artist gallery and performance called The Studio. It's a collaborative effort of several creatives in the area. 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Take a listen to The Scene with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and me! (And make sure you check out Scott's story about the proposed closure of the Illinois State Museum.)

Events discussed this week include:

Lydia Loveless started making her first album at the age of 17. She's been acknowledged as one of the best up-and-coming artists by both Spin and Rolling Stone magazines. Her songs are hard to classify. She is able to mix honky-tonk with a grunge/punk and even pop sound. The 24 year old is a huge pop fan, counting Prince and Ke$ha among favorites. She's on Chicago's Bloodshot Records and her newest album is called Somewhere Else.

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Ra Joy  heads Arts Alliance Illinois, an advocacy group that represents hundreds of cultural groups and artists in the state. He was at the capitol this week with about 500 hundred other rally-goers, urging Governor Bruce Rauner and lawmakers to keep the Illinois State Museum open.

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Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is approaching three months in office.  He unseated Mike Houston and took over the role his own father, Ossie Langfelder, held for two terms - from 1987 to 1995. While the new mayor hasn't been in office long - he's had time to make appointments, and is working on initiatives like high speed rail, wind energy, and residential development downtown. He spoke with us about all that and more - and starts this interview telling us how the transition of administrations has been so far:  

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Take a listen to this week's episode of THE SCENE. Scott & I are joined by Adam Nicholson, a local fixture in the arts world, especially when it comes to lit. He has an endeavor underway called Sala where he hopes to help artists network and get their art heard and seen by art-lovers and potential clients. (Click here for more about that initiative.) Here it is:

Events discussed this week include:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Athens resident, Lisa Cannon, was only in her 20s when she first learned she had breast cancer.  At the time, she had everything going for her - she was a wife and mom, and was finding success as a photographer and graphic designer with her own business. After under-going treatment she went into remission. Two years later though, the cancer was back - in her spine and liver. She learned she had stage IV metastatic cancer.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Springfield has a great deal of Mexican and Asian restaurants - but it is lacking when it comes to some other ethnic foods. A relatively new African restaurant is bridging some of those gaps for local foodies with adventurous palates. Listen to the report:

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Come along for the next episode of The Scene ... where Scott Faingold and I discuss Springfield's newest festival, Springfield's newest counter-festival to the new festival, one of our favorite cartoonists/artists - and much, much more!

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With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, and the insurance marketplace in Illinois - more contraceptives are available at no cost to women who are covered under the plans. But there is still confusion when it comes to just what methods are included. 

Taste of Downtown was a festival that Springfield had put on for 15 years. But it's gone. In its place is the Bacon Throwdown & Music Fest, also hosted by Downtown Springfield Inc. Victoria Ringer heads the non-profit group. She joined us to talk about the new fest - which will feature bacon as the key ingredient to the food being offered from Springfield-area resturants.

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An internet hoax led some to believe a  Springfield restaurant was posting help wanted ads that were discriminatory.  The ads were soliciting applications for servers and bartenders at Dublin Pub (1975 Wabash Ave.) in Springfield. The owner, Joe Rupnik, says he believes an ex-employee tampered with the ads by hacking into the establishment's online accounts. He says a lawyer is looking into it. The ads were placed on Craigslist and Indeed.com.

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Each year, dozens of performers make their way to Springfield to perform at Sangamon Auditorium. From dance, to magic, to folk tunes and Broadway - the season line-up is always a varied one. 

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WUIS took quite a chance 3 years ago when then-manager Bill Wheelhouse decided the station needed its own locally produced news program. The change came with the retirement of Karl Scroggin who used to host classical music programming during weekdays. The entire station made the switch to all news and information programming during the day.

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It's time for this week's episode of The Scene with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and me, take a listen:

Events discussed this week include:

Illinois State Museum in Springfield
Lisa Ryan / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Almost 7,000 people on Facebook have "liked" a page titled 'Save the Illinois State Museum.' Supporters have planned a rally for July 21st. 

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Rachel Otwell / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Springfield may not be known as a particularly cinematic town, but it is home to its share of film-makers. Kimberly Conner is one of them. Her movies include Jump In and This Life Ain’t Pretty have been critically acclaimed and nationally distributed. Conner’s movies have black stars and explore issues like love, forgiveness, and the personal struggle of dealing with disease – like AIDS.

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It's time for your weekly dose in local arts and culture. Scott Faingold and I are at it once again, this week with quite the array of happenings and cultural picks... Please, have a listen, we insist:

   Events discussed this week include:

Overhead view of CWLP and the Dallman Station.
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Local conservationists have long been concerned with various issues surrounding the utility City, Water, Light, And Power and the effect it has on Lake Springfield and the environment. Illinois is one of the most coal-producing states, but even the Springfield mayor is pushing for changes.

Illinois Times/Pat Yeagle

Check out this week's version of THE SCENE with Scott Faingold and me. (Make sure to read Scott's cover story on the band Looming, pick up a free copy around town or read it here.)  

Take a listen:

Public Domain

Union members have long been at odds with government in Illinois. They have come out attacking both Democrats and Republicans alike for measures to cut or freeze benefits as the state grapples with its billions of dollars of debt. One historical figurehead in the movement for workers' rights is still highly lauded - Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones

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Over the last several days, talk has circulated that the uber-rich Illinois GOP Governor Bruce Rauner will be using his resources to take his ongoing message of "shaking up Springfield" to the airwaves. Not through interviews with media, but by buying ad time and creating commercials to promote his ideas for crafting a budget. 

If you are done taking the picture of your happy hosts super seriously ... then it is time to listen to this week's version of THE SCENE. The lovely Allison Lacher, an art professor, artist, curator, etc. etc. joins Scott Faingold and Rachel for this edition:

Events discussed this week include:

Springfield's Muni, an outdoor theater,  is opening up for the season this weekend. The first musical is Spamalot - Monty Python's Broadway musical hit. Mac Warren is the director - he joined us to talk about the production: 

Ticket info and other information about the Muni, here.

 

Open mic nights in Springfield come and go. Some have more of a jam-band feel, others may cater to singer-songwriters, the list goes on. Expressions in the Dark brings an urban vibe, and a major focus is poetry. I recently visited one of the events, held monthly at the Homespun Republic in the Vinegar Hill Mall .

A new museum has opened in Pontiac - all about gilding arts. Displays in the museum show how gold leaf is made and where gilding can be found. There is also a recreation of a gold-leaf manufacturing company and what it looked like in 1887. 

Illinois Times

That's the question reporter for the Illinois Times Patrick Yeagle asks in his cover story. He explores calls for putting fewer criminals in prison while sending more of them through rehabilitation programs. Yeagle writes about how "tough on crime" efforts of the 80s and 90s are being re-thought, though Illinois has been slow to join other states in revamping policies and laws.

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Over the past few months I have worked on a story about what it's like to be transgender, especially for those who do not have the privilege of fame and plenty of resources. For many, being transgender comes with stigma and discrimination in just about every facet of life.

Tune in to this week's version of THE SCENE with Rachel & Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

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