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 Thursdays and features cultural happenings in the central Illinois region.

She's a 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%.

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.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In 2009 a movement was created by Blythe Hill, who had a unique idea to take on human trafficking. Human trafficking is the practice of using people, mostly women and children, against their will for work that includes everything from sweat-shop factory work to sex-slavery. You can see a TED talk Hill gave about her project earlier this year, below. She calls it, Dressember.

The Scene Talks About The Scene

Dec 18, 2015
FX

This week Scott mentions his cover story for the Illinois Times this week in which he hosted a round-table discussion about what local venues are doing to attract talent and get people out to see shows. Check it out here.  

Meanwhile, if you have an idea as to who would be good to add to our guest host roster for next year when it comes to gabbin' about the scene, email Rachel.

We take a look at what this weekend will bring, take a listen:

Events discussed this week include:

springfieldart.org / prairieart.org

Two of Springfield's most prominent arts groups will be merging come January 1st. 

In an effort to make funding more sustainable, the Prairie Art Alliance and the Springfield Art Association will be combining. Both sides voted on the change nearly unanimously on Wednesday. Betsy Dollar heads the Springfield Art Association and says the PAA will be joining forces with it and its campus on the north side of town. 

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.

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. 

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