Rachel Otwell

Reporter/ The Scene Blog

217-206-6407

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%.

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The Scene
4:22 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

The Scene: Supersuckers & A Scary Movie

The Supersuckers
Credit supersuckers.com/photos

Tune in to this edition of The Scene, where I'm joined by fellow arts & culture reporter - Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

  Events discussed this week include:

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The Scene
12:22 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Local Artists Explore GMOs With "BIO-fied" Show

Kevin Veara & Amanda Grieve
Credit WUIS

Often times, art serves the purpose of being something nice to look at - a painting or picture to add some beauty in the world. Other times, it's designed to make you think about issues facing society. A show currently on display at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery in Springfield has plenty of pretty artworks - including images of plants and flowers. But it's meant to get the audience thinking about genetic engineering.

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The Scene
12:53 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Goodbye Donnie's - Hello "Homespun Republic"

The view inside Homespun Republic
Credit www.homespunrepublic.com/

The pizza restaurant formally known as Donnie's Homespun has made a switch to being primarily a venue over at the Vinegar Hill Mall in Springfield. (CLICK HERE for more info about upcoming events.) Mike Tasch, the Vice President of Homespun Republic, joined us to explain:

 

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The Scene
2:06 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

What Will Become Of Springfield's Holy Land?

Jamal & Afaf Rashmawy, owners of Holy Land Diner
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In the land of the horseshoe sandwich (a local "delicacy" consisting of bread, meat, fries & cheese sauce) finding fresh Middle Eastern food can be a definite challenge. For the past two decades, Holy Land Diner has been a staple for many residents who like to eat a variety of ethnic offerings. And the couple who run Holy Land have become fixtures in Springfield's culinary community. But now, they are looking to retire and pass along the legacy. Listen to the report: 

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The Scene
4:56 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Black Sheep Founder Hands Over Reins To DIY Music Venue

Kevin Bradford, founder of Black Sheep Cafe

Kevin Bradford could justifiably be called the godfather of Springfield's underground punk music scene. He's only 32, but he's managed to help create and feed a culture of do-it-yourself musicians and their fans in a way that is truly incomparable in the city. Bradford recently announced he'll be stepping down as the owner/operator of Black Sheep Cafe (1320 S 11th St.) The good news is, he's not going far.

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The Scene
9:10 am
Fri March 20, 2015

The Scene: Fiddlers, Rock Shows & Feminist Film

Credit screamingfemales.bandcamp.com

Tune into this week's episode of The Scene with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and Rachel Otwell.

Events discussed this week include:

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The Scene
2:06 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Screaming Females Will Rock In Springfield

Credit blacksheepspringfield.bigcartel.com

Ten years ago, three friends got together in New Jersey and formed an outfit called the Screaming Females. They were brought up in the gritty DIY scene, producing their own albums, doing their own promotion, and playing in houses and basements. These days, they still play in houses and basements, but they travel across the country doing it (and they also play in some more mainstream venues too.)

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The Scene
10:26 am
Wed March 11, 2015

'Pro-Text' Exhibit Puts Words Into Art

Work from the show
Credit http://www.museum.state.il.us/

A large art show that originally opened in Chicago has made its way to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. It incorporates text and language into art pieces comprised of various mediums. This is not your typical art exhibit. We spoke with the man who dreamed it up and put it together, Bob Sill:

                  

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Health Desk
12:46 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Update On Ebola From A Local Infectious Disease Specialist

Credit cdc.gov

Ebola is still a concern to the health community - even though you're likely hearing less about it in the media. It is still possible the disease could spread to other countries. Dr. Janak Koirala  heads the division of infectious diseases at SIU School of Medicine. He will give a talk about the disease at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at UIS. (Info here.) He recently gave us an update about Ebola:

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The Scene
4:28 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

The Scene: Three Art Shows & Rock N' Roll

artwork by Arjan Zazueta
Credit courtesy of the DEMO Project

Listen to this week's Art Beat with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

Events discussed on this edition include:

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The Scene
2:33 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Full Audio: Poetry Out Loud - Central IL Regional Contest 2015

Last month, high school students from around the region gathered in Springfield for the Central Illinois Poetry Out Loud Contest. It's a national contest, and finalists are chosen to represent their region, and are then narrowed down to state picks. 26 students recited poems from memory. Rachel Otwell emceed the event.

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Lincoln
9:12 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Combat Vets Recreate Lincoln's Hearse

Eric Hollenbeck, founder of the Blue Ox Mill
Credit https://www.indiegogo.com/individuals/9619643

Combat veterans in California have been working on the hearse that will be used in Abraham Lincoln's funeral re-creation later this spring. It will be at the center of events in Springfield commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's funeral processional and burial. Work on the hearse provided a number of challenges. And in a way, it served as therapy for those working to make sense out of civilian life back home.

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The Scene
11:54 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Are All Those Cat Videos Making Us Stupid?

A cat on a newspaper
Credit Flickr.com/hellie55

In this day and age when people put a lot of effort into making their videos or news stories viral,  there's one sure-fire way to garner some extra attention - put a cat in it. Instagram is full of pictures of cats, and your Facebook news feed likely sees a cat video from time to time. Grumpy Cat is a household name, and face. But what implication does this have with the quality of news we receive? Is it a sign that we as a society are dumbing down? Or is there more to it?

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The Scene
3:02 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

The Scene: Paintings, A Doc & Psychedelic Rock

work from the exhibit opening at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery, Lyle Salmi: Sublime Light
Credit http://www.uis.edu/visualarts/gallery/current-exhibition/

Tune into this week's Art Beat with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

Events discussed this week include:

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The Scene Blog
12:54 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Local Lady Digs For Family Roots On PBS Program

Nikki Overcash on the Genealogy Roadshow
A still from the PBS program

How much do you know about your roots? Many of us have legends in our families about being related to famous people, but it's hard sometimes to know just where the truth lies. Nikki Overcash decided to find out about a tale that had been passed down in her family, rumors have it she's a descendent of the pirate known as Blackbeard. She did so by reaching out to the PBS program called Genealogy Roadshow.

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Arts and Culture
3:33 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

It's Winter - But You Can See The Dixie Swim Club

Grace Hughes and Deborah Kerley

The Dixie Swim Club is a play about 5 women who met on the swim team in college and have created lasting friendships ever since. Each year, they meet to reconnect and catch up with each other. The play, whose writers include one who has written for The Golden Girls, is a comedy that also tackles the serious issues that come with aging, and the drama that comes with friendship.

We were recently joined by two of the actors, Grace Hughes and Deborah Kerley for this interview:

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The Scene
11:26 am
Fri February 20, 2015

The Scene: Improv Comedy, Punk Rock, Béla Fleck &...

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn and The Del McCoury Band - Del & Woody
Credit http://www.sangamonauditorium.org/

Tune into this week's Art Beat:

Events discussed this time around include:

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The Scene
11:07 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Send WUIS Your Spring Inspired Stories

A scene from Lincoln Memorial Gardens in Springfield
Credit Rachel Otwell

WUIS is once again soliciting original writings from the Springfield-area. We are looking for stories that take a maximum of 4 minutes to read out loud (abbreviated versions are fine - we can post your whole story online.) Poets are also encouraged to submit.

We want stories that are at least loosely tied to the theme of spring - be they a rebirth or reinvention, or a story that is set during that time of the year. Use your imagination, get creative, and send your submissions to rotwe2@uis.edu with the subject line: SPRING STORY.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
4:07 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

The Scene: Siren Singers, Sibling Drama & A Halted Mural Project

Lorin Devine & Ryan Bishop (Lorin plays at Bar None on Friday night)

Tune into this week's Art Beat with the Illinois Times' Scott Faingold:

Events discussed include:

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Illinois Issues – The Scene
11:57 am
Wed February 11, 2015

What Happened To The Downtown Mural Project?

The mural on the side The Alamo downtown
Credit Michael Mayosky

A project meant to "art - ify" Springfield's city center may have hit a dead-end. The effort to add more murals kicked off a couple years ago. Now there's only a single incomplete one to show for it. The question remains if Springfield will join other cities in Illinois, and across the country, that can boast their downtowns as places where public art is highlighted. 

    

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Live At The Suggs
12:37 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Ken Bradbury's 'The Last Full Measure' Performed By Fritz Klein

Credit UIS Campus Relations

Thursday will mark the 206th year since Abraham Lincoln was born.  Ken Bradbury, a prolific Illinois playwright, wrote a one-man, one-act play called 'The Last Full Measure' about what Lincoln may have been thinking in the moments after he was assassinated.

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Illinois Issues – The Scene
6:30 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

The Scene: Lincoln's B-Day, A Vintage Shop Tour + Music & More

This week we bring you info for a vintage shop tour on Saturday in Springfield that is offering customers free charms to make jewelry with (flyer is posted in this post, more info here).  That event also includes Incredibly Delicious! PLUS: 

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The Scene
12:17 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Changes Ahead For Downtown Springfield Inc.

Credit Flickr/Lara604

Last year, Downtown Springfield Inc. made a plea to residents, saying without extra fundraising dollars the group would go bankrupt. But it was able to regain losses, and now there are changes ahead for the group. For instance, the "Taste of Downtown" event that has been highlighting local restaurants for years will start focusing on a specific ingredient. For 2015, that will mean the event will focus on bacon. DSI is also appealing to the city for financial help to keep a sustainable budget.

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The Scene
11:11 am
Mon February 2, 2015

Chicago Singles Club: Tunes Your Ears Will Fall In Love With

CSC Vol. 1 Compilation LP
Credit http://chicagosinglesclub.storenvy.com/

Chicago Singles Club probably sounds like a dating site - but it actually is an operation that records and releases free singles, of the musical variety. Chicago Singles Club is in its second year and features some of Chicago's best and most unique independent artists. We spoke with one of the founders, Jeff Kelley, to find out more:             

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

Report Calls For Lincoln Museum And Library To Continue As One Unit

Credit Rachel Otwell / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum should stay paired with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency — but changes are needed. That was the finding of a study done as a result of measures in the legislature calling for the two to separate. House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, has been behind the push for the separation. But experts in the field of historic preservation say not so fast.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
12:00 am
Sun February 1, 2015

Community Arts Groups Face Funding Challenges

The Springfield Art Association hosts an annual Paint the Street event.
Credit Steve Myers

 
Betsy Dollar’s office at the Springfield Art Association, which she heads, is a hodgepodge of computers used for digital art classes, important files, various books and pieces of art. Her dog, Jake, who tends to accompany her to work, is napping under the desk. Dollar is in the middle of a messy project, using clay to restore a historic ceiling medallion that was damaged at Edwards Place, a home that is part of the Springfield Art Association campus and was the original center of artistic activity for the group some 100 years ago. This is the office of a person who does far more than push papers and handle bureaucratic duties; it’s headquarters for a woman who does a little bit of everything to keep the organization she loves running.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
4:13 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

The Scene: Hip Hop Battles, Foreign Film & More

Coming Back Home, Salzburg, Austria
Credit COPYRIGHT DAVID BRODSKY

The art & culture events we discuss this week include:

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The Scene Blog
12:59 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Meet The New Springfield Area Arts Council Director

Jon Austin
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

The Springfield Area Arts Council has a new director. Jon Austin is an Illinois native who has led a host of non-profit organizations. He's headed the Illinois State Historical Society and was the director of the Museum of Funeral Customs. He says he's excited to be a part of Springfield's diverse arts community. He joins for this introductory interview:  

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Human Interest
10:37 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Jacksonville Girl Shares Story Of Brother's Death To Help Others

Valerie with the book she helped create
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. are the victims of domestic abuse. Some die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them. That's what happened to Maxwell, he was two when he died after a history of neglect and abuse that was never adequately addressed. He left behind a family who will never forget him, and a sister who has worked to cope with his passing. 

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Health Desk
2:26 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Cervical Cancer Awareness

Credit http://www.rpmh.net/

January is "Cervical Health Awareness Month" and those in the health field around the country, including SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, are urging women to get screened. Cervical cancer is usually caused by HPV, a virus that can sometimes be prevented with the use of vaccines. You can find guidelines on how frequently Pap tests are suggested by The American Cancer Society here.

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