Rachel Otwell

Reporter

Hi! I cover local news including arts & culture and education. I'm a 2012 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. While working toward that degree I spent a semester covering the legislature for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio. In 2010 I graduated from UIS with degrees in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and African-American Studies (yes, that was a lot of studying!) Previous experiences of mine include tutoring Rwandan refugees, supervising children at an orphanage in Kenya, working as an activities assistant at a nursing home in Ohio, and lots of waitressing.

I cut my teeth in radio in 2011 while interning for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, DC. My reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, and WorkingNow.org. 

Please feel free to email me with tips on potential stories going on in the Springfield area. Thanks!

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Medical Marijuana
4:35 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Medical Marijuana In Ill. - Interview With Brian Mackey

Credit Wikimedia Commons/user: Bogdan

Governor Pat Quinn recently signed a measure that makes Illinois the 20th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. But how long until it actually goes into effect? And what sort of restrictions will there be for patients hopeful to gain a prescription to the drug? WUIS's  statehouse reporter Brian Mackey recently discussed the news with us:  

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Lincoln
6:47 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Tomb At Oak Ridge Cemetery To Close For Repairs

Lincoln's Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery

The final resting place of Abraham Lincoln will be getting a make-over starting in October.

That means the tomb could be closed for up to 6 months.

Lincoln's tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery is also the resting place of his wife Mary Todd Lincoln and three of their four children.

The underground part of the monument has water damage and cracks, according to Chris Wills of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency:

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The Muni
12:18 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Peter Pan Comes To The Muni

The musical Peter Pan is likely one most folks are familiar with. This weekend you can see a live version of it at Springfield's outdoor theater, The Muni. Anna Bussing who plays Peter Pan, co-director Gil Opferman, and Jim Dahlquist who plays Smee recently joined us in studio to talk about the production:

CLICK HERE for more information about Peter Pan, which opens tonight. All performances begin at 8pm and run August 2-4 & 7-11.

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Springfield Art Association
10:41 am
Thu August 1, 2013

'Sacrosanct' Exhibit Explores Religious Roots With Art

'The Second Time' by Amanda Grieve

'Sacrosanct: A Collaborative Soul Signature'  features the art of Amanda Grieve and Thom Whalen. The area artists say they usually show their work out of town - but they've come together to locally feature artwork based on their relationships with family and religion. Both were raised by artists and in the Catholic faith. Whalen and Grieve recently joined us in the studio to tell us more about their exhibit and their backgrounds:

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Arts & Community
7:00 am
Thu August 1, 2013

A Profile Of Springfield Painter & Muralist, Michael Mayosky

Mayosky in his home in Springfield
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Michael Mayosky's art is hard to miss if you live in Springfield. If you've ever been to Knight's Action Park - you've seen his aquatic landscapes stretching over the buildings. On Macarthur Boulevard, his more "trippy" murals adorn head-shop Penny Lane. And now, for his 109th Abraham Lincoln painting, he's going larger than life - much larger. But Mayosky's relative fame as a local professional artist has brought its challenges…

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Music
1:20 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Suggs Studio Performance: Springfield Alternative Rock Band 'boon'

Alt-rock band Boon consists of members Aaron Stallone on drums, Matt Natale on bass, and Johnny Draper on vocals and guitar. They joined us recently in the Suggs Performance Studio to share a few tunes and tells us a bit about their music:

CLICK HERE for more tunes and info about boon.

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Teens
4:13 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

'The Voice' Brings Teen's Perspectives To Local Media

Alissa Groeninger

Alissa Groeninger is the editor for The State Journal Register's teen section, 'The Voice'. She joined WUIS to talk about her work with the area's young aspiring journalists: 

CLICK HERE to follow updates from 'The Voice' on Twitter.

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Arts & Community
11:46 am
Fri July 26, 2013

'Rock The Arts' Event Pairs Music And Art In Springfield

Chris Maxey & Jennifer Snopko

An event featuring art, music, and kids activities tomorrow (Saturday 7/26) will highlight the need for support of the arts from the community. The Prairie Art Alliance's Gallery II, located in Springfield's Old State Capitol Plaza, will have art on display and right outside musicians will perform. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with planners of the event, musician Chris Maxey and Prairie Art Alliance interim executive director Jennifer Snopko:

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District 186
11:29 am
Fri July 26, 2013

"Sharefest" Brings Make-Overs To Springfield Schools

Called "Sharefest" - this weekend over one-thousand volunteers will gather to tear up carpet, paint walls, and generally improve the appearance of Jane Addams and McClernand elementary schools. McClernand is in the Enos park neighborhood, Jane Addams is on Springfield's north-west side.

Both were chosen to make-over based on the income level of students' families. Last year nearly 90% of students at McClernand came from low-income homes. 67% of students at Jane Addams came from low-income families. 

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Community
2:58 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Central Illinois Foodbank Moves Into New Site

The Central Illinois Foodbank is moving into what once was the Pepsi plant on Cook Street in Springfield. The non-profit hosts an open house tomorrow for the public to tour the new facility. Kaleigh Friend joins us now to tell us more about the move and what it means for the organization: 

The Central Illinois Foodbank's open house is tomorrow (Thursday, July 25th) from 4:30 to 7 at its new location: 1937 East Cook Street. CLICK HERE for more information.

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History
2:41 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Effort To Restore Facade Of Springfield's First Black Firehouse

On the 13-hundred block of Adams street in Springfield sits a building that's been used as a Masonic lodge for decades. What's not obvious by looking at it now - is that it was once the first black firehouse in Springfield, back when the city was segregated in the early nineteen-hundreds.

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District 186
2:29 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

The Cost Of Finding A New Springfield Schools Superintendent

Previous 186 Supt. Walter Milton

Molly Beck, Education Reporter for the State Journal Register, has been covering the search for a new superintendent for Springfield public schools. Her recent article outlined the costs associated with that search. Beck joined us to talk about that article and her findings: 

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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
12:03 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

The Lincoln Family's Health Problems

The Lincoln family had its share of health problems, as did most living in the eighteen-hundreds. Local historian and author Glenna Schroeder-Lein recently wrote about it in a book called 'Lincoln and Medicine'.

She's also helped curate an exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum about medicine during the civil war era, which runs through November. Schroeder-Lein joins us to tell us more about her book and the exhibit:

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Music & Community
12:17 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Performance & Interview With Carrie Jo Stucki

Springfield guitarist and vocalist Carrie Jo Stucki also goes by CJ Thunder - and for good reason. The vivacious singer with a booming voice holds nothing back while she performs her original tunes. She's made a name for herself on the downtown Springfield circuit, frequently playing open mics, as well as with various other local musicians and bands. Stucki joined us at the WUIS studios to share some of her original tunes and tell us about her background:

Carrie Jo Stucki is joined by Dustin Strother on guitar, in this original tune by Stucki called ‘Unnamed Hymn’.

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Environment
1:33 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Fracking Divides Environmentalists In Ill.

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Across the world, the drilling process referred to as "fracking" has caused controversy. Some say it brings heavy profits with the oil and natural gas it extracts from far underground. Others say it's caused pollution, contaminated water... and even initiated earthquakes. It's an issue Illinois residents have been largely untouched by - until now, as fracking has recently begun in the southern part of the state.

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Community
1:21 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Interview: Illinois Prairie Pastel Society President

"Off Crockrell Lane" - by George King
Credit Illinois Prairie Pastel Society

The Illinois Prairie Pastel Society aims to promote and foster creative use of the medium. It was established a few years ago, and what started with a handful of members has grown since then. The group has artwork on display at the Chatham Area Public Library. President of the group, George King, joins us now to talk about that exhibit and why the pastel society was formed in the first place.  

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District 186
9:30 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Schools Feed Kids Over Summer Months — For Free

Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students might be on break, but many are still showing up at schools. Six different schools offer free meals to students during the summer months. In this story we take you to Butler Elementary, where lunch is being served:

Outside of the elementary school, right off of MacArthur Boulevard, kids are swinging, climbing equipment, and bouncing balls — but this isn't recess. They are waiting to be fed.

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PCCC
4:45 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Interview: Brian Oaks On Changes For The PCCC

The Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield has hosted some big names when it comes to musicians, like country singer and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, and the decades-old prog-rock band Kansas. But the center is taking a bit of a hiatus as plans are finalized to make it more appealing to convention-goers and concert-goers alike. Brian Oaks is the general manager of the center, he joins us for this interview about the on-going renovations: 

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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
1:52 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Summer Reading Program Welcomes Lincoln Authors

Three authors will visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield this summer to shed new light on issues ranging from the Civil War, to morality and music. The authors will sign copies of their books and present lectures.

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Drugs & Crime
11:30 am
Mon July 15, 2013

IT's Bruce Rushton Explores 'Epidemic' Of Heroin Abuse

Credit Wikimedia/user: Hendrike

The number of heroin users and associated overdose deaths seems to have gone up in recent years. In Illinois the trend of increased heroin abuse is getting reactions from social service agencies and law enforcement. It's an issue that Bruce Rushton of the Illinois Times recently reported on - he brings us a closer look at his investigation in this interview:

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Arts
1:27 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

'Dreamgirls' At The Muni

Marisa Cook, Fania Bourn, & Kate VonDeBur

Springfield's Muni starts its run of Dreamgirls this weekend - the Broadway production was made especially famous by the movie starring Beyonce back in 2006. The local version features over twenty actors who are brand new to the Muni's stage. We recently spoke with cast members Fania Bourn, Kate VonDeBur, and Marisa Cook for this interview:

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The Pharmacy
2:30 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Joshua Cox Featured In 6th Group Exhibition At 'The Pharmacy'

A shot from a previous work by Cox called "And the world formed itself around me."
Credit Johsua Cox

Joshua Cox is an artist and professor at Bradley University in Peoria. His works involve memories, especially related to his childhood growing up in central Illinois. He uses unique mediums to create alternate universes that transport his viewers utilizing life size, and temporary, artworks. Cox is the guest artist for The Pharmacy's Sixth Group Art Exhibition, where other area artists will also have their latest creations on display.

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Community
11:50 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Meeting To Discuss Potential Cooperative Grocery Store

Amy Bishop
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Amy Bishop is an artist and teacher from Springfield with a vision of a cooperative grocery store in her community. She's hosting a meeting tomorrow night at 6 at Donnie's Homespun in the Vinegar Hill Mall in Springfield to talk about that possibility, it's open to the public.

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The Pharmacy
11:05 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Springfield's Artist Co-Op Hosts Monthly Writer's Critique

Adam Nicholson
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Each month Springfield's artist co-op, The Pharmacy, hosts a writer's critique open to the public. Adam Nicholson helps organize that event, he joins WUIS to talk about the writing arm of the artist group, which meets tomorrow night at 7: 

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Theatre In The Park
7:00 am
Thu July 4, 2013

'The Crucible' At New Salem's Theatre In The Park

John O'Connor as John Proctor & Kara DeWall as Abigail Williams
Credit Donna Lounsberry

Carly Shank joins us to talk about the play 'The Crucible', written by Arthur Miller. The final performances are Thursday through Sunday at The Theatre in the Park in New Salem. Carly Shank is the director of that production:

CLICK HERE for more information about the production and to purchase tickets.

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Education
4:40 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

Focus Groups Will Meet Re: Search For 186 Superintendent

District 186 has chosen a search firm to find the next permanent superintendent. Walter Milton left earlier this year and Robert Leming has temporarily taken his place. The search firm School Exec Connect plans to accept applications until October, provided an ideal candidate is not found before then, says Springfield public school board president Chuck Flamini. He says the next step the search firm plans is organizing focus groups that will meet publicly:

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Community
10:32 am
Mon July 1, 2013

Artist On The Plaza: Local Performers In Downtown Springfield

Every spring and summer, local artists can be seen performing in the plaza outside of the old state capitol in Springfield. We speak with Sheila Walk, who tells us about the Artist on the Plaza events which happen twice a week:

CLICK HERE for more information on the Artist on the Plaza events on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in downtown Springfield.

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The Legacy Theatre
10:44 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Sunset Boulevard: Locally Produced Musical With Film Noir Style

Cynda Wrightsman in her role as Norma Desmond
Credit The Legacy Theatre

Sunset Boulevard is a musical that almost never was. It went through multiple failed plans before Andrew Lloyd Weber - who also wrote the music for The Phantom of the Opera - took the story line of a movie from 1950 and made it a Broadway hit. And now, the musical is coming to The Legacy Theatre in Springfield - the first time it will have a run in the city.

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Education
11:31 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Technology In The Classroom Pt. II: iPads Used Daily

  Paper notebooks are still a requirement in schools. But devices like iPads are becoming increasingly more popular in classrooms. In the second half of the WUIS series on technology and teaching, this story takes us to elementary schools in Springfield’s District 186 to see how the electronic tablets are becoming a common part of the school day:

REAVY: “OK, so go ahead and open up your email to ‘Snakes Quiz’…”

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Americana
11:20 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Ford Edsel Devotees Bring Unique Cars To Springfield

Herb Wiese with his '58 Edsel Pacer Convertible
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

  The Ford Edsel is widely known for being one of the greatest marketing flops in history. It had a brief run from 1958 to 1960. But not everyone gave up on the Edsel:

WHITE-SWIFT: “Favorite car votes… get your favorite car votes here….”

Joey White-Swift is from Waco, Texas. He came to Springfield for the Edsel Owners Club's 45th Annual Convention. He's collecting votes for the 15 cars on display.

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