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%.

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:

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.

Rachel Otweel headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS - Illinois Issues

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

  Events discussed this week include:

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.

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.

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.

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:

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:

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: 

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.

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:

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.

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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