Rachel Otwell

Reporter/ The Scene Blog

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Read Rachel's "The Scene" blog.

Rachel focuses on the arts, community, and diverse culture. 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, and WorkingNow.org. 

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Kidzeum
5:41 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Fundraising Efforts Continue To Build Science Museum

A drawing of the planned outcome
Credit http://www.kidzeum.org/

The Kidzeum has been collecting money since 2009 in order to build a science museum for kids. The ongoing goal of raising enough funds seems to finally be near. The museum's board is kicking off its final fund raising phase, 2 million dollars is still needed. We recently caught up with board president, Rachael Thompson, about where the museum is headed, where it will be located, and what it will feature: 

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UIS Events
4:49 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

UIS Hosts 36th International Fest Friday

Springfield-area residents have a chance to get a taste of all things international on Friday. UIS hosts its annual International Festival with food, booths from area groups, entertainment and more. Erica Suzuki and Sarah Jome with UIS's International Student Services joined us for this interview about it: 

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Innocence Project
11:49 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Woman Once Convicted Of Causing Shaken Baby Syndrome Visits UIS

Audrey Edmunds' case is one of the first of its kind taken on by the Innocence Project. Shaken Baby Syndrome affects infants who have been abused, though they often show no external injuries. Medical experts are becoming increasingly wary of the diagnosis - and some say thousands of cases have been misdiagnosed.

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DEMO Project Gallery
12:11 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

DEMO Gallery Hosts Installation That 'Branches Out'

Benjamin Gardner has a fitting last name. The Illinois native, Iowa art professor, and abstract artist is also an urban gardener who draws inspiration for his work from the natural world. On Friday, The DEMO Project gallery in Springfield (1732 N. 4th St.) will welcome Gardner for an opening and reception of his installation, Evensong 15 (caudex). Gardner recently joined us to talk about his work and inspirations:

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District 186
2:09 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Students Lacking Immunizations Out Of School For 3 Weeks & Counting

About five hundred Springfield students were forced out of the public schools last month for failing to have required physicals and immunizations. The number has since dropped to 87 kids missing classes. The deadline was October 15th. School board member Mike Zimmers says the policy should be changed for next year to have the deadline before school gets underway.

"Parents just need to plan, you know when they start thinking about ... we need to get school clothes or school supplies -- in your mindset just think, we need to get physicals, we need to get shots,” said Zimmers.

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Film
7:00 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Rt. 66 Film Fest Features Eccentric Mix Of Indie Flicks

A still from the short film 'Wooing Wes Wilson' - directed by Thad Vassmer
Credit vimeo.com

Friday marks the kick off of the Route 66 Film Festival in Springfield. We bring you a conversation with Hugh Moore & Lana Wildman about that and a look at a couple of the films from Illinois that will be featured there:

CLICK HERE for more information about the fest, which runs Friday, November 1st to Saturday, November 2nd. You can also email Route66FilmFestival@gmail.com to get tickets for both days at a reduced price.

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Halloween
8:00 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Carl Jones, Local Ghost Investigator

"A fairly recent one from the old Milton School house in Alton, photo taken by Danielle Spain, she felt something behind her and a cold chill, put camera over her shoulder and captured this dark shadow figure. " -Carl Jones

You may be queuing up some scary movies on Netflix to get into the spirit of Halloween this week. But for some, interests in ghosts lasts all year 'round. Carl Jones started the Prairieland Paranormal Consortium and teaches classes at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield about the paranormal.

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Halloween
7:00 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Ghost Hunters Look For Paranormal Evidence At The Hickox Home

Exterior of Virgil Hickox House
Greg Manfroi

The Springfield-area is home to numerous ghost-hunting groups that investigate hauntings year round. As you might imagine, after going on hundreds of paranormal explorations - investigators start to acquire a few scary stories. WUIS recently caught up with two area paranormal investigators who were on site at one of Springfield's most notoriously haunted locations. If the evidence captured from that night doesn't scare you, perhaps their tales of their own run-ins with ghosts will. 

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Hoogland
11:08 am
Fri October 25, 2013

'The Little Years' Play Merges Science, Stereotypes & Theater

 Stella Cole and Kevin Purcell join us to talk about a play that runs this weekend at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. Called 'The Little Years' it explores the trials of a female math prodigy. Following her over the course of over 40 years, from the time she was a teen during the 1950s, the Canadian play explores what happens when a brilliant young mind goes to relative waste: 

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Farmer's Markets
4:13 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

'Green Saturday' Promotes Farmer's Markets

You've probably heard of Black Friday - but what about "Green Saturday"? No? Well that's a day the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and genHkids, non-profits aimed at promoting agriculture, nutrition and the buy-local movement, have recently come up with. And this Saturday marks the kick-off - with the group urging Illinois residents to support the state's farmers by purchasing their produce.

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African Culture
7:00 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Roosevelt Pratt Brings African Culture To Springfield With Music, Language & More

You might not know it, but Springfield is home to a cultural center specializing in Africa. Run by a man known for his permanent smile, Roosevelt Pratt has unrelenting enthusiasm for his mission - to teach those in the Springfield-area about different aspects of African culture - from food, to language, to music... and more. But his path to Springfield was not an easy one, and he still struggles to do what he loves most, educate: 

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District 186
4:28 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Superintendent Search Draws Feedback From Springfield Community

Scott McFarland
Credit sps186.org

A search firm hired by district 186 to help in the hunt for a new Springfield public schools superintendent recently shared its findings after turning to parents, teachers, and the community at large for feedback. Board member Scott McFarland joins us to discuss some of the findings, and talk about the profile of qualities being sought after in a superintendent candidate: 

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District 186
12:15 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Parents Urge186 Board To Pose Property Tax Referendum

A group of parents who have students in Springfield public schools took their push for a property tax increase before the District 186 board last night. They’re pursuing the issue - despite the fact the school board vice president recently proposed the idea of a 1% county-wide sales tax increase. Supporters of the property tax idea say it would benefit the general education fund while the sales tax hike, by law, would be used for building needs.

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Riverton Elementary
7:00 am
Mon October 21, 2013

No Art Classes For Riverton Elementary - Parents Hope To Provide Alternative

Chanell Bradbury

 Riverton Elementary School is going without art classes for students this year due to cuts in it the district's budget. But there's still hope students may have another option for a creative outlet. Chanell Bradbury's daughter is a student at the Elementary, when she found out that the art classes were being cut to save money, she was disappointed: "I was really, really mad at first. How can an elementary school - of all schools ... how could they drop an art class? These children, their brains, they're just so like sponges."

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District 186
7:00 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Search Firms Tells 186 School Board It's Uniquely Political

District 186 needs to warn superintendent candidates of the highly political atmosphere that’s become business-as-usual for the Springfield school board.

That’s what the search firm the board hired to help find a new superintendent is telling them, based on feedback the firm gathered from members of the community and staff. 

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Local Artists
10:33 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Mayosky Plans Cross-Country Trip Painting & Filming About Rt. 66

Mural in Springfield by Mayosky, he's calling it the start of his project
Credit Michael Mayosky

A Springfield artist known for his murals is hoping to embark on a journey across the country, Illinois to LA - painting over 10 murals along the way. His rendering of a young Abe Lincoln adorns the side of a restaurant and bar in downtown Springfield, and Mike Mayosky hopes to share his work with cities along the rest of Route 66. Furthermore, he's hoping to try his hand at documentary film-making with a production about the journey. He joined us to talk about that proposal and what inspired it: 

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Lincoln Memorial Garden
4:57 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Indian Summer Festival & Updates From Lincoln Memorial Garden

Joel Horwedel - Executive Director of LMG

Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center may well be Springfield's most celebrated destination for nature-enthusiasts. With over 100 acres of wilderness and trails, it provides a serene landscape along Lake Springfield for residents and tourists to soak in some sun and fresh air, free of charge. 

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Arts & Community
1:00 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Downtown YMCA Hosts Arts Week

From the Springfield YMCA Arts and Humanities Facebook page

Many people probably think of the YMCA as a place to work out, play sports games, and swim. But it's also an organization heavily invested in the arts - through community outreach programs, summer camps, classes and more. And this week Ys around the nation are celebrating "Arts Week". We recently spoke with Lisa Parfitt of the Springfield YMCA located at 701 South 4th Street about what the week's events include: 

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District 186
3:55 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Supt. Search, Property Tax Referendum Among Issues In Dist. 186

 A property tax referendum may be posed to Springfield voters next year, if a group of parents gets its way. The group says it'll campaign on the issue from a grass roots angle, even though board members aren't convinced the timing is right to raise taxes. School board vice president, Adam Lopez, is one who says the board needs to work on other issues first. 

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District 186
11:23 am
Thu October 3, 2013

'The Matthew Project' Aims To Help Homeless Students

Picture from matthew-project.com

The project, founded by Ann Libri, started simple by collected clothing and school supplies for students growing up in unstable environments. This year, the project is kicking off a pilot program with ten students that will teach life skills and provide meals, tutoring, school supplies, and clothing. Libri says she hopes the project will continue to grow and assist the hundreds of homeless children in Springfield's district 186.

We recently interviewed Libri, and the Springfield city treasurer, Jim Langfedler, who is also an advisor to the project: 

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UIS Visual Arts Gallery
7:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Artist Explores Vachel Lindsay's 'Golden Springfield' With Installation

Vachel Lindsay is one of Springfield's most well known historical figures, considered the father of "singing poetry" - he was known as the Prairie Troubadour and was one of the most celebrated poets of his time. But a lesser known aspect of the writer is the utopian vision he had for the future - influenced by his own political brand of socialism. These ideas became a novel called 'The Golden Book of Springfield.' 

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Fire House News
6:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Jacksonville Dog Wins National Contest

Smokey
Credit The Today Show

A Jacksonville native will have a cameo performance on one of the hottest television shows in the country: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'. She's 4 years old, has dark hair, and her name is Smokey. Smokey the black lab is a resident of the Jacksonville fire house, where she helps out by assisting fire-safety classes for children. She won a national contest that had people vote for the country's best fire-house dog. Todd Warrick who works for the fire department and trains Smokey recently told us all about it:  

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English & Writing
10:47 am
Tue October 1, 2013

UIS Writing Series Kicks Off

"The first public reading by Matt Rasmussen will take place on Thursday, October 3 at 7 p.m. in the Lincoln Residence Hall Great Room at UIS."

A mix of established and emerging poets and writers will make their way to Springfield this month for the UIS Creative Writing and Publishing Series. The series, free and open to the public, kicks off on Thursday at 7pm with a reading from an author whose poetry explores feelings about his own brother's suicide. Meagan Cass is with the English department at the university and helps organize the series, she joined us for this interview: 

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Springfield Art Association
2:41 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Springfield Art Association Celebrates 100 Years By Planning Updates

Edwards Place

The Springfield Art Association, located in the Enos Park neighborhood, turns a century old this year, and is using the milestone to publicly outline plans for updates and renovations. The organization, which boasts an art gallery, learning and teaching center, and Edwards Place - a historic home once visited by the Lincolns, is marking its century anniversary this year.

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Disrict 186 & The Arts
12:23 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Local Benefit For The Arts In Public Schools Features Area Talent

A new local non-profit is using art, music, and comedy to help raise funds for local students. The Illinois Independent Arts Association hosts what's called a 'Springfield Renaissance' show this Saturday at Donnie's Homespun restaurant and venue in Springfield. Local musicians include Carrie Jo Stucki aka CJ Thunder Stucki, and band Lowder featuring Josie Loweder. Proceeds will benefit the band program at Washington Middle School. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Eric Heyen and Jaimie Kelly of the group about it: 

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Route 66
7:00 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Interview: 12th Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Cars line up during last year's festival
Credit route66fest.com

Over 1,000 classic cars will be on display in Springfield this weekend. It's time again for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival - on its 12th year. We recently spoke with the president of the festival, Kim Rosendahl about it. She tells us the event is about more than just cars, it's about the lifestyle the iconic highway represents:  

CLICK HERE for more about the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival which kicks off in Springfield this weekend with a city night cruise on Friday.

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Sports
6:09 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Men’s Roller Derby In Springfield Plays First Home Bout This Weekend

Michael D’Amaro (L) & Paul Elders chat during a roller derby practice

Roller derby is a contact sport on wheels known for its brutality, but also its inclusivity. Anyone willing to strap on a pair of skates and protective gear is invited to join the area teams. Rachel Otwell visited with a men’s team, Springfield’s Capital City Hooligans, as they prepared for their first official bout in May.  This Sunday, the Hooligans play their first official home bout at Skate Land South. 

We thought it was a good time to re-visit our feature story:

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Arts
10:35 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Musicians Create "Sound Portraits"

Credit http://werticocainandgray.wordpress.com

Combining audio and visual effects, three Illinois musicians have joined up to create an act that defies conventional genres.

The trio plays a host of electronic and acoustic instruments - everything from saxophone, to cello, to the iPad.

The group recently released an album that is 100% improvised, as well as a DVD of those performances. They call their production, "Sound Portraits".

The three will be performing live again on August 31 as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

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Beer
11:08 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Microbreweries Call Springfield-Area Home

Inside operations of Engrained Brewing Company
Brent Schwoerer

When it comes to the beer business, craft offerings and microbreweries are becoming more popular.

The Springfield area is starting to catch up with the national trend. 

Rachel Otwell went behind the scenes of local beer-making operations to get "tapped in" to what's happening there: (For more on Springfield's history of brewing, you can find an extended interview at the bottom of this page)

How did the craft beer movement find its way to town?

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UIS Theatre
7:00 am
Mon August 19, 2013

UIS Theatre Announces Upcoming Season

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson

Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, the director of the Theatre Department at University of Illinois Springfield, joins WUIS to tell us about the upcoming season: 

CLICK HERE for more information about the upcoming theater season at UIS as well as info on how to audition or become part of the productions.

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