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%.

Luke Otwell

Political cartoons and their creators have a special place in my heart. While growing up, my grandparents' house was decorated with dozens of cartoons (my grandfather worked for the Chicago Sun-Times). Many took a cynical stance on the Daley regime. I think one of my grandfather's most prized possessions is a printing plate he snatched before it got melted down and recycled. It contained the famous cartoon created by Bill Mauldin in the hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

© 2014 Maloof Collection, Ltd.

This week, we take a look at an art exhibit currently on display at the Prairie Art Alliance's H.D. Smith Gallery at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. We talk to Carolyn Owen Sommer about her work that came from a challenge to create 30 pieces of art in 30 days. The result is an interesting take on a host of women's issues.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

North-End Pride: The Story of Lanphier High School, Its People and Community. That's the title of a newly released book that takes a first-of-its-kind look at an area of Springfield that's not always on the top of the list when it comes to what makes Springfield residents proud of their city. But the book's author, Ken Mitchell, was born and raised there with people he describes as "salt of the earth." He started the book as a memoir about his high school days and it quickly morphed into a deeper history. Mitchell joined us for this interview: 

courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell

Jonathan Mitchell has been working in public radio for nearly 20 years. His background is in music, he often creates his own music for his stories, which use creative sounds. Mitchell studied music composition at the U of I and learned about the recording studio while working on a project that incorporated manipulated natural sounds.

Scott Faingold & Rachel Otwell publicity shot
Sean Crawford/ / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Scott Faingold  reports on arts & culture for the Illinois Times. (Find his blog here.) We'll be turning to him for this podcast exploring the central Illinois art scene - everything from music, literature, visual art, film and more. With my focus also being on the arts world here in Springfield, and Illinois - we'll tell listeners about our favorite things to check out in the area. We'll be learning about new artists and musicians right along with you.

http://oiir.illinois.edu

University of Illinois officials say they will continue to convene meetings on the prevention of sexual assault on all three campuses. The group comprises about 20 people - including legal counsel, police, and women's rights advocates.

Dedra Williams is the Assistant VP for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois, she says the goal is to ultimately shape effective policies: "If we need to make improvements, we want to be a leader and work with the legislators, with our campuses, and make a safe place for our students."

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A panel that considered whether to separate Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the state's historic preservation agency released its findings on Wednesday. Convened at the request of both entities, the study recommends keeping the same oversight. Legislation has been proposed to split them apart. The report also suggests a reorganization of the state agency to improve what it calls the cultures of "politics" and "research."

courtesy of David Jackson

The Chicago Tribune has been taking a look at the rampant problems that appear to be taking place at residential treatment centers for teens run by the state. David Jackson has been one of the reporters who has been looking at the issue over a long period of time.

Rachel Otweel headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Editor's Note:
January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative." 

THE SCENE
ARTS AND CULTURE
Rachel Otwell

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Area artist and musician Matthew Schultz has seen and been in his fair share of art and music scenes. In this interview, he looks back on the past couple decades of music that he’s been a part of. From the industrial rock super-group Pigface, to the ambient stylings of his latest musical project, Schultz recently spoke with WUIS about taking his music from dark, to light:

Audio Player

WUIS first aired this interview in Feb. 2013.

Flickr/H. Michael Karshis

If you're someone who frequents concerts and shows, chances are you have purchased tickets online. Lots of times the sites that come up on a Google search for those tickets are being offered from secondary-market brokers (a fancy term for the people who often charge extra to buy the tickets for you.). They serve as largely unnecessary middle men, and you could lose a good chunk of change if you're not careful.

Veterans in the Springfield area have been gathering over the past few months to discuss stories they are reading about war and other topics they can relate to. It's become a therapeutic and social outlet. Justin Blandford is with the state's Historic Preservation Agency, which is helping sponsor the events, held at the Old State Capitol. He joined us for this chat. Along with him was the group's facilitator, Jim Warner, who begins this interview telling us about why he got involved:  

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

There are now five candidates in the running for Springfield mayor. Incumbent Mike Houston, county auditor Paul Palazzolo, alderman Gail Simpson, city treasurer Jim Langfelder, and perhaps the lesser known of the bunch - community activist Samuel Johnson. He joined us recently for this interview:   

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In 2015, it will have been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln died. It will also be the tenth anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield opening. These two milestones will be marked by special events, including an exhibit open now through 2016 that displays original speeches and Lincoln's death bed.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Ever walked around an art gallery and marveled at the works you know you would never be able to afford? Well, here's your chance to get a piece of art for free. Judah Johnson and Brad Balster are both local artists with a flair for nostalgia and screen printing.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

With five hopefuls throwing their name in the ring to be Springfield's next Mayor (current Mayor Mike Houston, Sangamon County auditor Paul Palazzolo, city treasurer Jim Langfelder, activist Sam Johnson, and Ward 2 Alderman Gail Simpson), WUIS is reaching out to hear from each candidate on why the desire the role.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

The holidays can bring out the compassionate side of people. Some might be inspired to donate to charities or take on volunteer work. For one local man, helping the less fortunate is something he does on a daily basis. But it wasn't always that way.

Donna Lounsberry

WUIS is partnering with actor and renowned Abraham Lincoln impersonator Fritz Klein, the enduring and creative local director Phil Funkenbusch, and treasured Illinois playwright and author Ken Bradbury for a unique and engaging evening celebrating the arts. And you're invited!

springfieldnaacp.org

It's been about a week since the decision was made not to indict police officer Darren Wilson after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Reactions to that decision are still resulting in protests, prayer vigils, and round-table discussions across the nation.

In Springfield, Teresa Haley who heads the local chapter of the NAACP has been at the center of much of the events concerning issues like racism and police brutality -- issues that Ferguson has brought to the forefront of many peoples' minds.

Listen to our interview with Haley, here: 

http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/municipal-equality-index

Same sex marriage took effect in Illinois earlier this year, and while our state has joined the ranks of others that offer an increased amount of rights and protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, cities differ in laws and policies that promote equality. A report that was released a few weeks ago looked at cities from around the country - seven of which are in Illinois.

Courtesy of the Springfield Choral Society

You can hear The Springfield Choral Society perform Handel's Messiah on Saturday, November 29th at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (524 E. Lawrence Ave) at 7:30 pm.

 Choral Director Marion van der Loo joined us for this interview about it: 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

 

Dozens of people gathered last night at the Union Baptist Church on the east side of Springfield for a prayer vigil. It was held in response to recent news out of Ferguson, Missouri.  

 

Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann has been covering the situation in Ferguson, MO since it started back in August. She was at the announcement made by Prosecutor Bob McCulloch on Monday night that a grand jury chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

In this interview, Lippmann tells us about the reactions from Brown's family, protests and riots, and more:

It's the 28th year for the family-friendly New Year's Eve event. The Springfield Area Arts Council is hosting a 5K run the Sunday before December 31st.  An optional buffet dinner is also back for a second year. And First Night's Laura Vaught highlighted a new participant: 

Courtesy of SIU School of Medicine

This week is "Get Smart about Antibiotics Week." It's meant to address the fact that a large amount of antibiotics are used inappropriately, which can lead to what are known as "super bugs".

Christy Bennett is a Springfield native who now lives in Chicago where she heads the band Fumée Gypsy Project. Bennett sings and plays accordian. The music they play is called “gypsy-jazz”, made popular by artists like Django Reinhardt. Bennett stopped by the Suggs Studio at WUIS with band mates Casey Nielsen (guitar) and Nate Baker (mandolin).

Luca Casarteli/Wiki Commons

November 20th is known as "Transgender Day of Remembrance." It's an acknowledgement of those who were the victims of violence caused by their gender identification and presentation. Unlike the rest of the words in the acronym "LGBT" - transgender is not a sexuality. It is an umbrella term used for those who feel the sex they were born as is not an accurate depiction of the gender they feel themselves to be. 

fumeegypsyproject.com

Come see Fumée perform and be interviewed by Rachel Otwell at noon on Wednesday, November 19th. That will be at WUIS, on the campus of University of Illinois Springfield (in the WUIS building.)

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Kari Bedford is a well-known photographer in the Springfield area. Her usual focus is on portraits and events like high school graduation and weddings, but she's decided to take her skills and apply them to an additional cause. She started the project "Girls In Focus" to diversify the stories that are told by and about young women through photography. How exactly? Well, Bedford joined us for this interview to explain her project and her goals: 

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