Rachel Otwell

Journalist / Illinois Edition Producer / Host of: The Scene, Heartland & The P-Units

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

She's a 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 NPR Illinois 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%.

PBS.org

Freedom Schools were made popular during what's known as Freedom Summer, which took place during the civil rights movement - in 1964. They were meant to supplement the education black students were missing out on as a result of segregation - as well as focus on African-American facets of history.

benbedford.com / lauraevelyncai.bandcamp.com

This week Rachel and Scott preview events like the "Spirited Stroll" in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield on Saturday afternoon and Champaign's Cinema Under the Stars screenings that last all summer. They also hear from Ben Bedford, a Springfield singer/songwriter who will be playing music from his new album at The Dana Thomas House on Friday. Tune in!

Rachel Otwell

Often times kids need a place to go after school lets out, especially in places like the east side of Springfield - where Feithsans Elementary School is located. About 90% of the kids who attend come from low-income families, though many parents work long hours to make ends meet. That's where the 21st Century program comes into play - it's a joint effort of District 186 and the Springfield Urban League - and relies heavily on the time and talents of volunteers.

Rachel Otwell

Scott and Rachel talk about two big festivals taking place in Springfield this weekend: Pride Fest & the Old State Capitol Art Fair

COURTESY KELLY MCEVERS / NPR

Kelly McEvers is an area native who has found much success in public radio. She's a co-host of All Things Considered, she's reported from war zones, and now she is reporting and hosting for a new podcast called Embedded. In this interview she tells us about all her endeavors, old and new:

 

You can check out an episode of Embedded below:

Rachel Otwell

Right outside of Springfield, in New Berlin, is a rolling landscape of over 100 acres of farmland. The llamas and alpacas are some of the first things you'll see to know you've arrived at Jubilee Farm

isbe.net // pixabay.com

Parents from our panel take on the issue of standardized tests in the state: lawmakers had debated a measure that would allow some students to opt-out of taking them, it failed to pass, but was it a good idea?

Rachel Otwell

This episode, Keil and Rachel head to Jubilee Farm, just outside of Springfield in New Berlin. They meet with the Catholic Dominican Sisters who operate the site which focuses on ecology and spirituality. It's over 100 acres and is home to llamas, alpacas and gardens.

Allison Lacher in the UIS Visual Arts Gallery
Shannon O'Brien / UIS Campus Relations

This week we're joined by Allison Lacher who helps run the UIS Visual Arts Gallery and the Demo Project gallery - both highlight contemporary and alternative art from the state and around the nation.

Princess Etch A Sketch on Facebook

George Seurat's painting at the Art Institute of Chicago called "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" is made up of millions of tiny dots, or points. Combined they paint a picture of several people - many donning umbrellas enjoying a leisurely sunny day.

BRAD PALMER, WSIU RADIO

Since earlier this year - students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale have been urging administrators to address the racism they say they've run into on campus. In April, one black student in particular alleged that white students used racial slurs when addressing her during an open forum in a dorm.

fermentation.siu.edu

We all know beer is a popular beverage amongst many young people attending college. Starting in the fall, some Southern Illinois University Carbondale students will be majoring in it. We talk with Matt McCarroll about the Fermentation Science Institute there, and the bachelor's degree in fermentation science that will soon be offered:

U of I News Bureau

Traditional accounts of American history are sorely missing first-person narratives and retellings of stories belonging to gay, black men. So says Kevin Mumford, director of graduate studies and professor of history at the U of I at Urbana-Champaign. 

springfieldchoralsociety.org

There will be a rare performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor in Springfield this Saturday. It's being performed by the Springfield Choral Society as part of the Liturgical Arts Festival of Springfield. Details regarding the time and location of the performance are in the flyer above. Marion van der Loo is the conductor of the group, she joined us to preview the event:

When most people in the U.S. hear the word immigrant they probably think of someone coming to the country from Mexico. However in Illinois cities, like Champaign, there are growing populations of immigrants from African countries as well.

USER: Hendrike, Wikipedia // USER: Deviation56, Wikipedia

Instances of prescription opioid abuse have been steadily climbing in the past couple decades across the country, and here in Illinois. According to the state's department of public health more than half of the overdose deaths in Cook County in 2014 were due to heroin. 

We've put together a roster of moms, and a dad or two, who will join us on Illinois Edition to take on issues that matter to those trying to successfully raise children in these hectic modern times. Rachel Otwell, NPR Illinois reporter and the mother of a toddler, hosts the rotating panel.

Rachel Otwell

Welcome to our second episode! We have an interview with science editor for The Guardian, James Kingsland. His new book is called: Siddhartha's Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment. He also has a blog about neuroscience and Buddhist psychology, called Plastic Brain

The Scene With Photographer David Brodsky

Apr 28, 2016
brodskyphotoart.com

This week The Scene is joined by guest host David Brodsky, who often takes pictures of unwitting subjects. You can find a profile piece about him here. A collaborative show will include his work, it's called Translations and opens on Friday night. Take a listen to learn more:

This week we talk about an upcoming art show at The Pharmacy gallery in Springfield featuring the work of longtime friends and artists Wendy Allen & Carol Bridges who both create unique and colorful pieces using textiles. Both women are inspired in part by their own sense of spirituality... Tune in!

United States Congress

Another Illinois politician is facing potential prison time. This time it's Dennis Hastert, a former Republican Illinois Representative who served as the US Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007.  Hastert, now 74 years old, grew up in northern Illinois and spent time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach before making his way into politics. A hush money case that surfaced about a year ago and dredged up allegations of prior sexual abuse has him in the national spotlight.

Rachel Otwell

It's now close to a year since Illinois had a budget in place. The impasse has led to increased attention for what many consider a financial crisis. On Sunday, comptroller Leslie Munger announced pay for the legislature and its constitutional officers will be delayed, as have many payments for vendors and service-providers . The amount of unpaid bills is nearing $8 billion. Meanwhile, some members of the legislature are trying to pass a measure that would cease their pay as well - and make it contingent on passing a "balanced budget."

Scott Griessel/flickr, user: creatista & trailheadcenter.org

Welcome to the new podcast where we create conversations about spirituality and how it intersects with everyday life. Check out the program page for a little more info, if you wish - but for now, let's dive right in.

epsom.bandcamp.com

This week we chat about upcoming arts shows and music shows, and we talk vinyl and the magic of listening to albums in their entirety because Saturday the 16th is Record Store Day! Tune in:

Events discussed this week include:

Rachel Otwell

A student at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana was charged with murder this week, after she turned herself in and showed authorities the body of a newborn in her back-pack. Authorities say Lindsay Johnson - 20 years old from Monee - suffocated her son last month after giving birth to him in a dorm bathroom.

Rachel Otwell

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Each year over 500 people in central Illinois who are victims of sexual violence are given counseling, legal and medical advice and support, and even clothing if needed, all at no charge to them. That’s through Springfield's Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault – in the state there are 28 other similar groups, all part of a state coalition.

c-uphd.org

In Illinois, House bill 6073 would make it so transgender people can change the sex designation on their birth certificate without having to have reassignment surgery. Proponents of the measure say it's a needed change since not all trans people want the surgery, and many who do can't afford it. 

Kari Bedford / jirwinmusic.com

It's a family affair this week as Tom Irwin and son John Irwin join us in the studio. They tell us about their current musical projects and share a tune, recorded live, as the song of the week! Tune in:

Events discussed this week include:

christieblizard.com

Christie Blizard is an artist and professor from San Antonio, Texas. She's in Springfield setting up an installation in the alternative art space on the Springfield Art Association's campus, known as the Demo Project. Blizard spent 2015 making several appearances in the crowds holding signs for the Today Show & Good Morning America. (You can find some of those here.) A reception for her show called 'The Sex of Life' is planned for Friday night.

mergerecords.com/ivy-tripp

Katie Crutchfield, a.k.a Waxahatchee, has - much to her own surprise, become an indie-rock darling with national recognition. Her newest album, Ivy Tripp, has been critically acclaimed (ie: here &  here), as have her previous two records. The name of the project comes from a creek in Alabama – which is Crutchfield’s home state. 

Pages