Rachel Otwell

Illinois Edition Producer / Reporter

217-206-6407

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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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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Theatre In The Park
9:44 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Little Women The Musical At New Salem

Austin Dambacher, Rhett Wagner & Will Barnhart

Most people are probably familiar with the story of 'Little Women', a novel by  Louisa May Alcott about four sisters living during the Civil War and their quests to find meaning in life and true love. What you might not know is that it's been made into a musical. You can see a local production of that this weekend at the Theatre in the Park in New Salem.

We recently spoke with three men who are part of the production; Austin Dambacher who plays Professor Bhear, Rhett Warner who plays Laurie, and Will Barnhart, the director: 

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Authors
11:00 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Writer Collects Personal Stories On Recession In Springfield & Across US

Lee Somerstein & his travel companion Trooper
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Lee Somerstein is a writer and blogger traveling the country and collecting stories about how people have been impacted by the recession. He recently made a stop in Springfield and joined us in studio to talk about his findings here and in the other places he has visited:  

CLICK HERE to see Somerstein's blog, where you can read about his travels and the stories he's collected so far about the recession.

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District 186
3:05 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Programs Address Obesity In Springfield Schools

Despite health initiatives and efforts to get kids fit and active, the percentage of obese and overweight students in Springfield's district 186 may surprise you. Locally, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is studying those rates in certain classrooms, and helping implement a national program meant to curb the trend. We recently spoke with Dr. David Steward about it, he is the associate dean for community health and service at SIU School of Medicine:  

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Illinois State Museum
2:44 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Lecture On Civil War Excavations In Southern Ill.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois is home to Civil War artifacts and historical sites that many people don't know about, and archeologists say there's potential for even more exploration and excavation to be done. Mark Wagner heads the Center for Archeological Investigations at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He's speaking tonight at 7pm at the Illinois State Museum about his findings, we recently caught up with him: 

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Springfield Parks
12:37 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Interview: Leslie Sgro, Springfield Park Board President

Leslie Sgro
Credit Springfield Park District

It's been a challenging year so far for the Springfield Park District. It faced a backlash earlier this year after it was discovered the former executive director had created his own policy for paying out vacation and sick time without Park Board's consent. And the fiscal situation is on lean times according to park board president, Leslie Sgro. She recently joined WUIS for this interview: 

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The Legacy Theatre
12:54 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

The Legacy Theatre Announces Coming Season

Scott Richardson & Patrick Russell
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Executive director of The Legacy, Scott Richardson, and Patrick Russell, associate director joined us to talk about the eclectic upcoming season through the rest of the year and into January. Shows include a Marx Brothers inspired musical with local performers, acrobatic cats, a metal Christmas show complete with lasers and other special effects, a returning musical about a transgender rock singer... and more: 

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District 186
6:46 am
Mon August 12, 2013

In-Depth Interview: Interim Supt. For District 186, Robert Leming

Robert "Bob" Leming
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

WUIS caught up with Robert Leming on a variety of issues, including how high speed rail could affect schools in the district, his vision for changes with elementary schools, a residency requirement for school administrators, and more: 

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Kirkland Performance Arts
12:47 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Kirkland In Decatur Announces Upcoming Performing Arts Series Lineup

Courtesy of Millikin University

What do an aging folk singer, a Michael Jackson impersonator, and an improv comedy group from Chicago have in common? Well, they'll all be making their way to Decatur in coming months. The Kirkland Fine Arts Center recently announced the lineup for its 2013/2014 performing arts series. We recently spoke with director of the center, Jan Traughber, about it: 

CLICK HERE for more information on the coming lineup at the performance venue on the Millikin University campus in Decatur.

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District 186
11:38 am
Tue August 6, 2013

186 Plans Focus Group Mtgs To Aid Search For New Supt.

The search continues for a new superintendent for district 186. So far eight people have applied for the position to head Springfield public schools. The district is currently planning a two day summit later in the month consisting of meetings among the search firm leading the effort, teachers, parents, and other community members. Board member Scott McFarland is helping plan the meetings. He says the search firm hopes to garner more applicants and then narrow down the options based on feedback from the board and the community:

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Cyclosporiasis
4:44 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

New Case Of Rare Stomach Illness In Ill.

Illinois is reporting one new case of a rare stomach illness, bringing the total number in the state to five. The Illinois Department of Public Health says officials are still investigating the source of the illness caused by a parasite, but have been unable to link it to any food source.

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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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Live at the Suggs
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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