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%.

Ways To Connect

courtesy of Gus Gordon

Join us for this week's version of The Scene - we'll talk with the head of The Hoogland Center for the Arts, Gus Gordan. And he'll be joined by Julie Staley (Morticia) and Vanessa Ferguson (Grandma) who are in the cast of The Addams Family musical, which opens on Friday and runs through next weekend. (More info/tickets here.)

TUNE IN ! ! !

Other events discussed this week included:

Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2015 FOX Broadcasting

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that the majority of public radio listeners aren't also huge fans of "reality" T.V. Running with that assumption, I'm also going to guess not everyone reading this has already heard of Chicago's Tommy Walton. Well let me tell you...

Rachel Otwell // WUIS

When you think of a barbershop chorus, you probably picture men performing.  But plenty of women also join in the fun. The Sweet Adelines International Organization has been around for 70 years now.  One of the choirs, based in Springfield, has been hitting all the right notes:


courtesy of Kristin Wheeler

Love isn't always easy. Just about any couple that's been married for at least ten years will be quick to tell you that. It takes compromise and understanding, and sometimes - courage. The story of Jane Eyre is about that - but also a young orphan who goes on to be an independent and righteous woman, even though a patriarchal society makes that difficult.

Rachel Otwell // WUIS

This week we take some time to get to know two local figures in the hip-hop scene. Guests hosts are Aaron "Uncanny" Phillips, and Torch (of Torch Tuesday fame.)  Listen up!

Rachel Otwell // WUIS

The cover story from the Illinois Times that came out last Thursday is titled, "The high cost of budget cuts: When Illinois slashes social services, the vulnerable suffer." The author, Patrick Yeagle, joined me to talk about which social service agencies could disappear as a result of the state's budget impasse and proposed cuts. 

courtesy of Timothy Russell

If you are a longtime resident of Springfield who enjoyed the local bar and music scene in the late 70s and 80s - chances are you have heard the band Starry Eye. Timothy Russell had two members of his family in the band - and used to work for them on the production side as a kid. After his uncle's shocking death in 2013, he decided it was time to capture the band's history.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

For as much as we talk about him and the several things he has a part in ( ie: Black Sheep, F**k Mountain, Looming, South Town Studio...) it's actually pretty amazing Scott and I haven't had Brandon Carnes in-studio yet. He couldn't have come at a better time. This week, he tells us about Looming's record release show on Friday, his incredibly absurd and offensive project called Diaper Rash (which some would also call quality performance art), and what it's been like taking over Black Sheep in Southtown. Tune in! 

SARAH KELLOGG | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio, Rachel Lippmann, has been following the events in Ferguson after the shooting death of Micheal Brown for the year since it happened. Protests emerged yesterday around the anniversary of that event - where an unarmed black teen was killed by a police officer. A state of emergency has been called and protests are expected to linger on throughout the week.      

Tune into The Scene this week and hear pals and founders of the Downhome Music Festival in Springfield talk about how far their efforts have come over the past 5 years, and what you can expect if you attend this weekend. 

courtesy of Anna Bussing

It's a story as old as time: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Tragedy ensues. In modern day, a story like West Side Story, which throws in violence and racial tension for good measure, is just as timely as ever. It's being performed at The Muni for the first time in nearly 15 years, and opens this weekend. (Show times and tickets, here.)

John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

Black mold, crumbling plaster, leaking ceilings, broken stairs... A home with these problems probably doesn't sound like the ideal residence for a multimillionaire like Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. But that's exactly the issues that have cropped up after years of neglect at the Executive Mansion, aka the Governor's Mansion, in Springfield, which is 160 years old. 

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.

artsalliance.org

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.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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:

amazon.com

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!

commons.wikimedia.org/ParentingPatch

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.

Facebook

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.

http://www.sangamonauditorium.org

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. 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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.

netflix.com

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. 

Kimberly Conner headshot
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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