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%.

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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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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.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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:

courtesy of Emma Todd

ILLINOIS ISSUES - Emma Todd, then a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Tulsa, found herself seriously contemplating suicide, again. This time, the Springfield native had made her way to the top of a building.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

When it comes to shopping, I'm not a fan. Take me to a thrift store however, and I can dig around for hours in search of the perfect bargain. My house is decorated in odd old knick knacks and paintings from antique malls and second-hand stores. It's not unusual that most of what I am wearing is from Goodwill.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tune in to this week's version of The Scene - Scott Faingold & Rachel are joined by special guest host, local singer/songwriter Tom Irwin.

Two things that may sound strange together: Broadway musicals and mental illness. Next To Normal isn't your average, kid-friendly show.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Central Illinois and other places in the Midwest can sometimes be isolating to those in the LGBT community - that is those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. But for the past five years in Springfield, Pride Fest has been drawing them together with their friends, families, and allies. Politicians, drag queens, and many others in between have been involved. 

Southtown Springfield at Walch Stained Glass Studio.
Rachel Otwell / WUIS / Illinois Issues

If you’re not sure what exactly “Southtown” is – imagine you’re driving down South Grand Avenue in Springfield toward Rochester.

WUIS

Tune in this week. Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and Rachel are joined by Yona Stamatis, a professor of ethnomusicology at UIS and violinist for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and her student, Christina Shao, who will play the song of the week:

Events & other items discussed this week include:

IHPA

If you live in Springfield, you may have noticed there's a lot of empty space downtown that goes unused. But some people are trying to change that, by rehabbing historic buildings and turning them into residential space or businesses. Illinois tops the lists of states that used a federal tax incentive to rehab buildings that are privately owned and on the list of historical sites. Projects last year include an overhaul of Chicago's Wrigley Building, and Peoria's Hotel Pere Marquette. Carol Dyson is a tax incentives coordinator and architect with the state's historic preservation agency.

www.imrf.org/volunteering

The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund – a local government pension fund, is pushing an effort this year to get more of their members to help out others. We spoke with the head of IMRF, Louis Kosiba, about it:

For more info, click here.

WUIS

It's time for THE SCENE! This week Scott Faingold and I are joined by Aaron Phillips, who is an integral part of the local hip hop scene and hosts Torch Tuesday nights at Bar None in Springfield. He told us much more though, so take a listen to this week's edition:

Events discussed this week include:

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Springfield, Ill., this weekend to watch a recreated hearse commemorate Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession, which took place 150 years ago.

Adam Goodheart, who's written extensively about the Civil War, has visited Springfield a number of times.

"I find it a very powerful place," he says. "I'm very moved by many of the monuments to Lincoln there, including Lincoln's own house."

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?

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:

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.

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.

http://theboxmasters.com/

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

Events discussed this week include:

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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