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 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 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%.

Sanders campaign

Senator Bernie Sanders will be coming to Edwardsville Friday in hopes of riling up supporters in the state. Illinois' primary is on the 15th. Yesterday, we got a call from the Sanders campaign asking if we would talk with his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders. Fifteen minutes later, she called up the station.

Tony Colantino

Ragna Rye is Alex Owens on guitar and vocals, Michael LaFrance on drums and Phil Sgambelluri on bass. 

This week Rachel and Scott talk about a pro-wrestling event at a high school and an interesting documentary about an elusive Native American artist that is screening in town. Plus, local playwrights will see their productions on stage - you can be in the audience as well.

40winksfoundation.org

A store for beds and a hotline for parents are teaming up to provide needy families new mattresses, box-springs and bed-frames. The 40 Winks Foundation has provided several thousand beds to children all over the country. Slumberland, located at 2450 Chuckwagon Drive in Springfield, is providing beds for families in the Springfield area for the third time, the deadline to apply is Monday, Feb. 29th.

Matthew Minicucci is a Midwest transplant, hailing from the east coast. He's been in Illinois for about a decade now and says planting roots here is something that affects his writings. He also draws inspiration from classic literature and his parents' divorce, among many other things. He lives in Champaign where he teaches writing at the U of I.

Wikimedia Commons

As you may know - over a century ago Springfield underwent what is called the 1908 Race Riot. It was a day of lynching and upset - many black people were attacked after two back-to-back reports of assaults on white women by black men induced an angry mob. 

courtesy of the Village Voices of Chatham

A group of concerned citizens in Chatham say they fear they could be seeing the same problems as Flint, Michigan. They say ever since their water source has switched from Springfield’s City Water Light and Power in 2012 to the South Sangamon Water Commission issues have included discolored, foul-smelling water that is corrosive and leaves sediment. Some people say it even causes hair-loss and rashes.

pbs.org

It's that time of the week. Rachel and Scott have plenty to tell you about events in the area, including a micro-brewery's beer fest, adult coloring and a comic book convention. Plus they dish on cultural picks including musical artists Kendrick Lamar & Freakwater - and a new doc about the Black Panther Party. Tune in!

Events discussed this week include:

If you've ever seen a documentary by Ken Burns, you are probably familiar with the important role music plays in his films. It informs the viewer what mood Burns is hoping to illicit - it's a part of the story interwoven from beginning to end. Jacqueline Schwab is the pianist behind much of that music, she met Burns in her twenties and her music has appeared in a dozen of his films including Baseball, Mark Twain and Lewis and Clark.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

On Friday, Bernice King spoke to a group in Springfield representing the Abraham Lincoln Association - which regularly honors the president's birthday with scholarly symposiums. King was there to accept the "Spirit of Lincoln" award on behalf of her parents - Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. 

The Scene Wants You To Be Ours <3

Feb 10, 2016
NPR.org

It's the time of season - for punk shows, murder mystery dinners, and general romance. Scott and Rachel are here to tell you what you can do this weekend in to soak up all the culture, art and music our area has to offer:

Events discussed this week include:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

St. Patrick's Day may still be a way's off - but it's not too early to start planning your celebrations of Irish culture. This weekend a production opens at the Hoogland Center for the Arts called Blather, Blarney, and Balderdash

Tony Colantino

This week we are joined by a young Springfield woman and artist who has her hand in dozens of projects concerning everything from community gardening through feminist-rock.

Corey Woodruff

Stephen Houldsworth is a self-described "grumpy old gay man" (though his life's work aimed at bettering society suggests that characterization should be taken with a grain or two of salt.) His one-man performance involves a collection of stories about family, AIDS, race and mosh-pits. 

Jukebox Cassanova is Bernie Flesch on lead vocals and guitar, Gary Hawthorne on drums, Matt Combs on upright bass, and Mick Conboy on lead guitar. They joined us for the 2015 'Thank You Fest' and played a set for an audience in the Suggs Studio here at the NPR Illinois station. They were joined by band Ragna Rye who we'll hear from at a later date.

Dylan Stuckey

Richie Hofmann is a 28 year old poet living in Chicago. He will be coming to Springfield this week to read poems from his new book, called Second Empire.

Dave Heinzel

A motley crew of area musicians and artists have banded together to highlight the talent of fellow creatives in the area. It’s been a lofty undertaking, and so far three episodes of The Studio Show have been released on YouTube. I sat down with some of the guys behind the project, Arlin Peebles, Keil Isham & Dave Heinzel.

CLICK HERE to follow the show on Facebook and HERE to watch.

The Scene With The Studio Boys

Jan 27, 2016
WUIS

This week we are joined by the hosts of Springfield's entertainment/art program on YouTube called The Studio Show. Arlin Peebles and Keil Isham have been conducting their own interviews with local artists and featuring bands. You can see their show here and tune in now to hear more about it:

photo courtesy of Arlin Peebles

Arlin Peebles may be one of our area's most seriously unsung musicians. Pardon the lousy pun, but while he's not a name as recognizable as say - Tom Irwin, he has a sizable catalog of original songs and a talent for lyrics and composition. Arlin's authentic, and he just may be one of your new favorites, whether you're tied to Springfield or not.

The Scene: Drag Queens & The Symphony

Jan 21, 2016

It's that time, take a listen:

Events discussed this week include:

Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana

It’s one of the largest activist movements since the civil rights era of the 1960s. It’s more than just a hashtag, and it’s about more than police. What's the impact of Black Lives Matter as an organization and a philosophy? And will it be enough to bring about lasting and significant changes in Illinois and across the country? 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

This week we are joined by Allison Lacher. She is a local curator and artist and she helped found and now run the DEMO Project gallery on the campus of the Springfield Art Association. She tells us about the efforts of the contemporary art scene in Springfield which she helps spearhead. We also spilled some out for David Bowie (not literally because it would have wrecked the lovely one-of-a-kind carpets at Edwards Place.

I am not unique in that I am a huge David Bowie fan. So while I could probably muster up a remembrance about how he spoke to me as someone who saw herself as a weird kid - I will spare you. There are plenty of those to read. What I can't seem to get my mind around however, is that now - more than I ever noticed in his life - people are saying Bowie had a "problematic" past.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

It's time to learn about what's the haps. This week, we get to know a local fixture in the Springfield scene. Scott Richardson heads the Legacy Theatre - a building that has had many incarnations and could have dilapidated into the ether if not for Scott. Now it's one of Springfield's most eclectic venues. He talks the 2016 season with Rachel and (other) Scott.

Events discussed this week include:

James Daniels

A local crew of actors has banded together to bring a decade back to life that has seen much popularity. The 1920s with its glitzy flappers, big band jazz and swing, and of course, the booze -- is not a decade hard to make glamorous. With shows like Downton Abbey, even the more mundane aspects of life, like working as a servant - have become something that draws people in.

ArtsAlliance.org

The new year is bringing a big change for Ra Joy - who has been one of the state's leaders in art advocacy.He has spent the last seven years with Arts Alliance Illinois as its leader - but this month he switches roles and becomes the executive director for Change Illinois. It's another advocacy group - but one with broader goals for systemic change in government.  

Netflix

Happy (almost) new year! Scott and Rachel are here to tell you about a few things coming up this weekend, as well as tell you about some new developments in the scene.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Springfield Art Association and Prairie Art Alliance are becoming one, and will focus on rebranding and integrating in the coming year. If you've been part of the art scene in Springfield, there's a good chance you've heard this question: "Why don't local arts groups work more cohesively ?" 

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Money is still being raised to help run the Illinois State Museum in Springfield - even though its doors have been closed to the public for three months. A not-for-profit that deals with grants and private donations continues to solicit, sending out pleas for donations in the mail.

Photo by Patrick Yeagle

Kaiden Gullidge only lived to be eleven months old. The baby died while with a daycare provider who had been watching him for a couple days. She claimed he became unresponsive while sitting on his own — but the child's family and prosecutors contend he was shaken and abused by the woman who had been trusted to protect him.

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