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
4:26 pm
Sat April 25, 2015

Interview: What's Up With The Lincoln Funeral Recreation?

1865, the train with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln carried his body from Washington, D.C. to Springfield
Credit Library of Congress

If you live in Springfield and ever pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch local TV- chances are incredibly slim that you don't already know about the Lincoln Funeral Recreation that will be done in town on  Saturday, May 2nd. But there's been a certain amount of confusion over what exactly will transpire. Will there be a train car that replicates the one which carried his body from D.C. to Springfield? (Answer: Yes, but it won't ride the rails as previously planned.) Where should you park and plan to enter at?

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The Scene
4:31 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

The Scene: Punk, Psycho-Billy & Gypsy Jazz

The Scene is Rachel Otwell & Scott Faingold telling you their picks for what to do this coming weekend and beyond. There will be no show next week, so this installment includes a few picks from the first weekend in May as well. Tune in:

Events discussed include:

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The Scene
11:47 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Sustainable Springfield Wants Earth Day Everyday

April is known in some circles as "earth month" - a time for conservationists to spread messages about reducing waste and becoming better stewards of our world. A group called Sustainable Springfield is working to make people in the city more focused on waste reduction and recycling, among other efforts. On Wednesday night, Earth Day, it will honor local sustainable businesses with an event, something the group plans to continue. Harv Koplo is the treasurer of the group.

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Lincoln
2:23 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Plans Not Yet Clear For Lincoln Funeral Recreation

Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Even if you're not into history and couldn't care less about a funeral recreation, you still might want to know what roads will be closed for the event. But according to Katie Spindell, who heads The Lincoln Funeral Coalition, it's not yet known. She says a list of road closures will go online soon. As for parking for those who do wish to attend, Spindell says, "It will be very difficult.

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The Scene
6:47 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

The Scene: Billy Bob And Redneck Cousins Are In Town

Credit http://theboxmasters.com/

Tune in to this week's version of The Scene:

Events discussed this week include:

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History
11:51 am
Thu April 16, 2015

Edwards Place Restoration: Oldest Home In Springfield Gets A Major Face-Lift

A refurbished horsehair couch, the oldest piece of furniture in the home
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

If you've made your way to the Springfield Art Association over in the Enos Park neighborhood, you certainly noticed the large brick pale-pink home with green shutters. It's well over 150 years old and it's known as Edwards Place. It has just undergone a major restoration. I went for a visit as the process was wrapping up:

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The Scene
11:51 am
Wed April 15, 2015

Beautiful Book Pairs Felicia Olin's Art & Vachel Lindsay's Poetry

Felicia Olin (L) & Lisa Higgs
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A recent project combines the work of Springfield's most well-loved poet, the late Vachel Lindsay, with one of Springfield's favorite contemporary visual artists. A book titled, A Net to Snare the Moonlight collects over 15 children's poems by Lindsay and pairs them with artistic interpretations.

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2015 40th Anniversary Message
12:27 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

2015 40th Anniversary Message: Rachel Otwell

The Scene
3:49 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

The Scene: Conceptual Art Shows, Natural Disaster In Film & More

Tune in to this week's version of The Scene - with Scott Faingold: 

  Events discussed this week include:

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Science
10:53 am
Thu April 9, 2015

Will St. Louis Woman Realize Dream To Live On Mars?

Maggie Duckworth
Credit Michael Schleuter / schleuterphoto.com

Maggie Duckworth, a resident of St. Louis who has an engineering degree and designs costumes, says ever since she was a kid - she's been fixated on outer space. "I've probably been interested in outer space since my first word, which ... was saying 'home' while pointing up at the stars." Duckworth says her parents regularly exposing her to Star Trek at a young age was also an inspiration. Now, she is one of 100 finalists as part of the Mars One project, which aims to send a group of four people to colonize Mars by 2022.

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Health Desk
12:59 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Program "Shares Wishes" With Hospice Patients

You've probably heard of programs meant to grant wishes to chronically ill children - but now some adults in Springfield who are nearing the end of their lives are getting similar treatment. Through Memorial Medical Center's "Sharing Wishes Fund", those in hospice care are eligible for getting a wish granted - something to check off their bucket list. It could be a hot air balloon ride, or something as simple as a pizza dinner with family and friends.

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Springfield Mayoral Race
11:02 am
Mon April 6, 2015

SJ-R's Bernie Schoenburg Breaks Down The Mayoral Race

Bernie Schoenburg
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tuesday is the day Springfield decides who will be its new mayor. The race is between Paul Palazollo, currently the Sangamon County Auditor, and Springfield City Treasurer Jim Langfelder. Political writer for The State Journal-Register, Bernie Schoenburg, has been following city politics for over 20 years. He tells us why the candidates have been talking trash (literally) and what he thinks each could excel at, and where they could fall short.

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The Scene
4:13 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

The Scene: All About That Acoustic

Doug Shotwell (well, his hair & guitar, anyway...)
Credit dougshotwellandtherighthandband.bandcamp.com/

Tune into this week's version of The Scene - where I'm joined by Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times, per usual: 

Items discussed this week include:

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The Scene
11:35 am
Thu April 2, 2015

Local Actors Will Compete With "Talley's Folly"

Mary Young & Johnny Molson
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Johnny Molson & Mary Young  are fixtures in the local community theater world. They'll be heading to Michigan to perform in a competition hosted by the American Association of Community Theatre. They joined us to talk about the production they'll be competing with, called Talley's Folly, which you can also catch over the weekend at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield:

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Education Desk
1:06 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Students Perform & Present Research At STARS Symposium

(L-R) Michael Lotspeich, Irina Mason & Kylie Gilmore

Every year, students at UIS get together to give presentations and performances related to technology, the arts, and research. It's called the Stars Symposium. This year, the event is on Thursday and Friday on the Springfield campus. We were joined by students Irina Mason, Kylie Gilmore & Michael Lotspeich to talk about it: 

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Criminal Justice
12:10 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Proving Actual Innocence & Overcoming Trauma To Help Others

(L-R) Larry Golden, founder of the IIP, exoneree Angel Gonzalez, IIP att. Lauren Kaeseberg & IIP volunteer Kiran Desai

Today, we have the story of a man who spent 20 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence later would prove he didn’t commit.

We also hear from a woman in a different case – she was raped and accidentally helped put the wrong man behind bars.

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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

UPDATE: Afaf Rashmawy tells us while there is still yet to be a buyer, Holy Land will close after Saturday, April 25th. Lunch and dinner will both be served that day.

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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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