Rachel Otwell

Journalist / The Scene

Read Rachel's "The Scene" blog.

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%.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Muslims in Illinois are coping with increased scrutiny and incendiary rhetoric. We take you inside a local mosque and introduce you to a business owner in Champaign-Urbana during this two-part series.

Wikimedia / user: ACBahn

A fight over locker room access for a transgender student in a Chicago suburb has gained national attention. The agreement reached between one of the state’s largest school districts and the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights could have implications for the rest of the country too.

Flickr/ Shiraz Chakera

Dr. Valerie Hoffman has taught about Islam and the Muslim faith for three decades. She teaches religion at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and has lived in the Middle East.

Vachel Lindsay Association

Kevin Purcell is a well-known Illinois actor and director who helped co-found Over the Moon Productions. This weekend he will be performing a one-man show at the Hoogland: "A Child's Christmas in Wales." It's his reading of the well-loved story by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

 He spoke with us about his rendition of it for this interview. We also spoke with Tim Schirmer who composed the music for the production:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

This week we are joined by Kimberly Moore who is the founder of one of Springfield's longest-running poetry events, an open mic night called 'Expressions in the Dark.'

The Scene Gets In The Holiday/Punk Spirit

Dec 4, 2015

There are going to be a lot of holiday shows to gab about for the next month. But if you happen to be a Scrooge, don't worry. There are still other events that have nothing to do with Christmas, like the long-standing nationally renowned punk band The Queers coming to town...

Listen up!

www.edwardsplace.org

One of the nation's most historical instruments is getting back in working order.

http://quigley.house.gov/media-center

Earlier this month, people across the country and state recognized Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was created by activists as a way to honor those who have been murdered in a hate crime. Transgender people say their biological sex does not match the gender they identify with. Studies show they are much more likely to face violence and discrimination than the general population.

St. John's and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine have plans for a new women and children's medical center. The plot of land along 9th street contains the foundations of homes burnt during the 1908 race riot

The Scene Gets Thankful

Nov 25, 2015
photo: Brian Mackey, clip art: RO

Scott and  Rachel are nearing a year of bringing you The Scene on air and in podcast form. Every week we stop to take a look around the scene so we can tell you about some of the fun and fascinating things coming up. 

Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell from the Turkish border by Aleppo

Human rights groups in Illinois say they'll continue programs for Syrian refugees. That’s despite the governor's calls to suspend accepting them - a threat he made on the heels of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. 

books.google.com

Tune in and hear from Lisa Higgs, the president of the Vachel Lindsay Association which organizes community and poetry-related events in Springfield. Plus find out about the holiday farmer's market, a performance from the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and much more:

Tune in this week where we are joined by guest host from The Pharmacy, Janet Sgro - the collective will host an art show this weekend called Neo Surrealism: Third Eye Opening

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Springfield is home to a variety of antique markets, book and record shops, and boutiques. l would like to introduce you to a few over on a corner of Governor St. off of MacArthur Blvd. that have popped up in the past couple years. 

flickr.com, user: Dining For Women

There are many ways to get involved with a charity or social justice group. But what if you could combine those efforts with food? That’s exactly what the national organization called “Dining For Women” does. With hundreds of chapters that meet, it helps fundraise for women in developing countries - where it's been shown that if you invest in the women of a community - your dollars stretch further.

DEMO Project gallery

An international film fest, and an internationally known artist/art critic are in town - all in the same weekend! And there's plenty more to talk about. This week, Scott and Rachel are joined by Thea Chesley who works with the Route 66 Intl. Film Fest.

Events discussed this week include:

wjff.org

The history of Jewish migration was partially defined by the peddlers who left their homes in search of a better life. They sold things like jewelry, and house-wares, traveling from town to town and staying in the homes of strangers. Their legacy includes the likes of businesses such as Sears and Levis Strauss.

instagram.com/96AcresProject

Mass incarceration, the war on drugs, mental illness, and racism within police departments: all these issues are alive and well in America. In Illinois - the Cook County Jail is the largest single jail site in the US - and houses apx. 9,000 people. Meanwhile, unlike many jails located in small towns and rural areas - this one is directly surrounded by a community of tens of thousands.

Illinois Issues/WUIS

On Tuesday, voters in Ohio considered whether to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use. It would have created a new provision in the state's constitution that allowed only ten farms to grow the plant legally. That plan had its critics, and the measure failed. Many experts have their eye on Ohio - as it serves as an example of Midwestern residents trying to take on the legalization issue that has swept Colorado and the West Coast.

From The Scene: Happy Halloween, 2015

Oct 29, 2015
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Halloween is this Saturday, and as such there is a plethora of events in the area to help you celebrate. The Scene is here to tell you about the stand-outs:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In recent years, there has been a push at the statehouse to revive and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It'd be a symbolic gesture, since the measure failed in the 1970s, and never did get enough support from states to pass federally. It was meant to include in the Constitution that women shall be afforded the same rights as men and not discriminated against due to gender.

Wikimedia Commons / User: Husky

Learning standards for the arts are changing in the state. It's been about two decades since the guidelines have been updated. Teachers and administrators around Illinois have been meeting regularly since new federal arts standards were released last year. Those guidelines separate the arts into five categories: music, theater, dance, visual art and media arts.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In northern Illinois, a new space is open for kids to complete a variety of unique creative projects. I took a visit, here’s the report:

Get Spooky With The Scene

Oct 22, 2015
blacksheepspringfield.com

On the week's episode of The Scene, Rachel and Scott talk about Halloween festivities, preview a multi-sensory art show, and talk about a local museum most area-residents haven't heard of. Take a listen:

Events discussed this week include:

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A civil rights icon made a stop in Springfield this week to talk about activism and his new books. John Lewis, a Congressman from Georgia, is the last living member of a group of civil rights leaders known as the "Big Six." Martin Luther King Jr. was also in that group, and mentored Lewis.

solitarywatch.com

Isolation has proven harmful for the human psyche. Yet every year, tens of thousands of prisoners across the country are left alone for virtually every hour of the day in solitary confinement.

The Scene With Guest Host Arlin Peebles

Oct 14, 2015
Rachel Otwell/ WUIS

Gather around, let us sing you a tune. Well, Arlin Peebles will play you one anyway. He's our guest of the week and will be playing a show in Springfield on Friday night. He also helps run the new multimedia venue called 'The Studio.' We have lots to tell you about, so let's get started:

Events discussed this week include:

Top Shelf Productions

The event is Monday night on the UIS campus.

flickr.com, User: ShimerCollege

Shimer College was founded in 1853 and has existed in several different incarnations and locations around Illinois. It's now on the south side of Chicago, in a space it rents from the Illinois Institute of Technology. About 100 students attend, and they take courses that center around what's called the great-books curriculum. Students are expected to come to class ready to discuss, and the teachers are called facilitators, simply there to help move the discussion along. Classes never have more than 12 people.

The Scene: Magic + Art & Music (Lots Of It)

Oct 8, 2015

It's time for The Scene! We have lots to tell you about this week, so let's get to it:

Events discussed this week include:

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