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 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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Regional
1:41 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

What's Up With Chatham's Water?

Left: Ryan & Amy Mann, Right: Chatham Mayor Tom Gray
Credit Rachel Otwell/village of Chatham

Some residents in Chatham are concerned that since a new water plant was built there and began operating, their water quality is not what it used to be. Issues raised include that the water leaves behind a corrosive, chalky residue, has a bad taste and odor, and contains black particles.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
11:17 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Art Beat: Pirates, Local Tunes & Movies Galore

Credit http://blacksheepspringfield.com/

It's Friday, and that means time again to bring you our discussion of what events to check out this weekend and beyond. Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and I will tell you about:

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch
12:24 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Interview: Combating Systemic Racism In Springfield

SDART co-coordinators Leroy Jordan & Sister Marcelline Koch
Credit Patrick Yeagle

Some people claim we're living in a "post-racial" world. There's a black president, and laws to protect the rights of citizens no matter their skin color. But while it's no longer common place to overtly discriminate against others due to their looks - racism is alive and well in many of the institutions and systems of power in this country, and that includes in Springfield.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
12:20 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

ICYMI: Cartoonist Chris Britt Says It's His "Duty To Make You Uncomfortable"

My grandpa, Ralph Otwell, shows off a printing plate of a cartoon by Bill Mauldin
Credit Luke Otwell

Political cartoons and their creators have a special place in my heart. While growing up, my grandparents' house was decorated with dozens of cartoons (my grandfather worked for the Chicago Sun-Times). Many took a cynical stance on the Daley regime. I think one of my grandfather's most prized possessions is a printing plate he snatched before it got melted down and recycled. It contained the famous cartoon created by Bill Mauldin in the hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
1:42 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Art Beat: Paper Dolls, A Doc About A Street Photog & More

self portrait by Vivian Maier, from vivianmaier.com
Credit © 2014 Maloof Collection, Ltd.

This week, we take a look at an art exhibit currently on display at the Prairie Art Alliance's H.D. Smith Gallery at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. We talk to Carolyn Owen Sommer about her work that came from a challenge to create 30 pieces of art in 30 days. The result is an interesting take on a host of women's issues.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
12:04 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Springfield Author Has "North-End Pride"

Author Ken Mitchell
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

North-End Pride: The Story of Lanphier High School, Its People and Community. That's the title of a newly released book that takes a first-of-its-kind look at an area of Springfield that's not always on the top of the list when it comes to what makes Springfield residents proud of their city. But the book's author, Ken Mitchell, was born and raised there with people he describes as "salt of the earth." He started the book as a memoir about his high school days and it quickly morphed into a deeper history. Mitchell joined us for this interview: 

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
7:00 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Springfield Native Jonathan Mitchell Makes "Movies For Your Ears"

Jonathan Mitchell
Credit courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell

Jonathan Mitchell has been working in public radio for nearly 20 years. His background is in music, he often creates his own music for his stories, which use creative sounds. Mitchell studied music composition at the U of I and learned about the recording studio while working on a project that incorporated manipulated natural sounds.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
3:38 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

The Scene: Faingold & Otwell Preview Upcoming Events

Scott Faingold & Rachel Otwell
Credit Sean Crawford/ / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Scott Faingold  reports on arts & culture for the Illinois Times. (Find his blog here.) We'll be turning to him for this podcast exploring the central Illinois art scene - everything from music, literature, visual art, film and more. With my focus also being on the arts world here in Springfield, and Illinois - we'll tell listeners about our favorite things to check out in the area. We'll be learning about new artists and musicians right along with you.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
4:00 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

U of I Considers Sexual Assault Policies

Credit http://oiir.illinois.edu

University of Illinois officials say they will continue to convene meetings on the prevention of sexual assault on all three campuses. The group comprises about 20 people - including legal counsel, police, and women's rights advocates.

Dedra Williams is the Assistant VP for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois, she says the goal is to ultimately shape effective policies: "If we need to make improvements, we want to be a leader and work with the legislators, with our campuses, and make a safe place for our students."

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
3:39 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Lincoln Museum & IHPA Should Stick Together Study Says

Inside the ALPLM
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A panel that considered whether to separate Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the state's historic preservation agency released its findings on Wednesday. Convened at the request of both entities, the study recommends keeping the same oversight. Legislation has been proposed to split them apart. The report also suggests a reorganization of the state agency to improve what it calls the cultures of "politics" and "research."

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Illinois Issues - Code Switch
8:00 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Interview: Prostitution & More At State-Run Teen Centers

Chicago Tribune investigative reporter, David Jackson
Credit courtesy of David Jackson

The Chicago Tribune has been taking a look at the rampant problems that appear to be taking place at residential treatment centers for teens run by the state. David Jackson has been one of the reporters who has been looking at the issue over a long period of time.

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Introducing 'The Scene' Blog

Editor's Note:
January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative." 

THE SCENE
ARTS AND CULTURE
Rachel Otwell

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Illinois Issues - The Scene
10:12 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Matthew Schultz’s Music Career – From Dark To Light

Matthew Schultz
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Area artist and musician Matthew Schultz has seen and been in his fair share of art and music scenes. In this interview, he looks back on the past couple decades of music that he’s been a part of. From the industrial rock super-group Pigface, to the ambient stylings of his latest musical project, Schultz recently spoke with WUIS about taking his music from dark, to light:

Audio Player

WUIS first aired this interview in Feb. 2013.

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2014 Pledge Drive Message
12:00 am
Thu December 18, 2014

2014 Year End Drive Message: Rachel Otwell

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