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%.

You've probably heard of programs meant to grant wishes to chronically ill children - but now some adults in Springfield who are nearing the end of their lives are getting similar treatment. Through Memorial Medical Center's "Sharing Wishes Fund", those in hospice care are eligible for getting a wish granted - something to check off their bucket list. It could be a hot air balloon ride, or something as simple as a pizza dinner with family and friends.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Tuesday is the day Springfield decides who will be its new mayor. The race is between Paul Palazollo, currently the Sangamon County Auditor, and Springfield City Treasurer Jim Langfelder. Political writer for The State Journal-Register, Bernie Schoenburg, has been following city politics for over 20 years. He tells us why the candidates have been talking trash (literally) and what he thinks each could excel at, and where they could fall short.

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Tune into this week's version of The Scene - where I'm joined by Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times, per usual: 

Items discussed this week include:

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Johnny Molson & Mary Young  are fixtures in the local community theater world. They'll be heading to Michigan to perform in a competition hosted by the American Association of Community Theatre. They joined us to talk about the production they'll be competing with, called Talley's Folly, which you can also catch over the weekend at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield:

Every year, students at UIS get together to give presentations and performances related to technology, the arts, and research. It's called the Stars Symposium. This year, the event is on Thursday and Friday on the Springfield campus. We were joined by students Irina Mason, Kylie Gilmore & Michael Lotspeich to talk about it: 

Today, we have the story of a man who spent 20 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence later would prove he didn’t commit.

We also hear from a woman in a different case – she was raped and accidentally helped put the wrong man behind bars.

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Tune in to this edition of The Scene, where I'm joined by fellow arts & culture reporter - Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

  Events discussed this week include:

WUIS

Often times, art serves the purpose of being something nice to look at - a painting or picture to add some beauty in the world. Other times, it's designed to make you think about issues facing society. A show currently on display at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery in Springfield has plenty of pretty artworks - including images of plants and flowers. But it's meant to get the audience thinking about genetic engineering.

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The pizza restaurant formally known as Donnie's Homespun has made a switch to being primarily a venue over at the Vinegar Hill Mall in Springfield. (CLICK HERE for more info about upcoming events.) Mike Tasch, the Vice President of Homespun Republic, joined us to explain:

 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

UPDATE: Afaf Rashmawy tells us while there is still yet to be a buyer, Holy Land will close after Saturday, April 25th. Lunch and dinner will both be served that day.

Kevin Bradford could justifiably be called the godfather of Springfield's underground punk music scene. He's only 32, but he's managed to help create and feed a culture of do-it-yourself musicians and their fans in a way that is truly incomparable in the city. Bradford recently announced he'll be stepping down as the owner/operator of Black Sheep Cafe (1320 S 11th St.) The good news is, he's not going far.

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Tune into this week's episode of The Scene with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times and Rachel Otwell.

Events discussed this week include:

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Ten years ago, three friends got together in New Jersey and formed an outfit called the Screaming Females. They were brought up in the gritty DIY scene, producing their own albums, doing their own promotion, and playing in houses and basements. These days, they still play in houses and basements, but they travel across the country doing it (and they also play in some more mainstream venues too.)

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A large art show that originally opened in Chicago has made its way to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. It incorporates text and language into art pieces comprised of various mediums. This is not your typical art exhibit. We spoke with the man who dreamed it up and put it together, Bob Sill:

                  

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Ebola is still a concern to the health community - even though you're likely hearing less about it in the media. It is still possible the disease could spread to other countries. Dr. Janak Koirala  heads the division of infectious diseases at SIU School of Medicine. He will give a talk about the disease at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at UIS. (Info here.) He recently gave us an update about Ebola:

courtesy of the DEMO Project

Listen to this week's Art Beat with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

Events discussed on this edition include:

Last month, high school students from around the region gathered in Springfield for the Central Illinois Poetry Out Loud Contest. It's a national contest, and finalists are chosen to represent their region, and are then narrowed down to state picks. 26 students recited poems from memory. Rachel Otwell emceed the event.

https://www.indiegogo.com/individuals/9619643

Combat veterans in California have been working on the hearse that will be used in Abraham Lincoln's funeral re-creation later this spring. It will be at the center of events in Springfield commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's funeral processional and burial. Work on the hearse provided a number of challenges. And in a way, it served as therapy for those working to make sense out of civilian life back home.

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In this day and age when people put a lot of effort into making their videos or news stories viral,  there's one sure-fire way to garner some extra attention - put a cat in it. Instagram is full of pictures of cats, and your Facebook news feed likely sees a cat video from time to time. Grumpy Cat is a household name, and face. But what implication does this have with the quality of news we receive? Is it a sign that we as a society are dumbing down? Or is there more to it?

http://www.uis.edu/visualarts/gallery/current-exhibition/

Tune into this week's Art Beat with Scott Faingold of the Illinois Times:

Events discussed this week include:

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How much do you know about your roots? Many of us have legends in our families about being related to famous people, but it's hard sometimes to know just where the truth lies. Nikki Overcash decided to find out about a tale that had been passed down in her family, rumors have it she's a descendent of the pirate known as Blackbeard. She did so by reaching out to the PBS program called Genealogy Roadshow.

The Dixie Swim Club is a play about 5 women who met on the swim team in college and have created lasting friendships ever since. Each year, they meet to reconnect and catch up with each other. The play, whose writers include one who has written for The Golden Girls, is a comedy that also tackles the serious issues that come with aging, and the drama that comes with friendship.

We were recently joined by two of the actors, Grace Hughes and Deborah Kerley for this interview:

http://www.sangamonauditorium.org/

Tune into this week's Art Beat:

Events discussed this time around include:

Rachel Otwell

WUIS is once again soliciting original writings from the Springfield-area. We are looking for stories that take a maximum of 4 minutes to read out loud (abbreviated versions are fine - we can post your whole story online.) Poets are also encouraged to submit.

We want stories that are at least loosely tied to the theme of spring - be they a rebirth or reinvention, or a story that is set during that time of the year. Use your imagination, get creative, and send your submissions to rotwe2@uis.edu with the subject line: SPRING STORY.

Tune into this week's Art Beat with the Illinois Times' Scott Faingold:

Events discussed include:

Michael Mayosky

A project meant to "art - ify" Springfield's city center may have hit a dead-end. The effort to add more murals kicked off a couple years ago. Now there's only a single incomplete one to show for it. The question remains if Springfield will join other cities in Illinois, and across the country, that can boast their downtowns as places where public art is highlighted. 

    

UIS Campus Relations

Thursday will mark the 206th year since Abraham Lincoln was born.  Ken Bradbury, a prolific Illinois playwright, wrote a one-man, one-act play called 'The Last Full Measure' about what Lincoln may have been thinking in the moments after he was assassinated.

This week we bring you info for a vintage shop tour on Saturday in Springfield that is offering customers free charms to make jewelry with (flyer is posted in this post, more info here).  That event also includes Incredibly Delicious! PLUS: 

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Last year, Downtown Springfield Inc. made a plea to residents, saying without extra fundraising dollars the group would go bankrupt. But it was able to regain losses, and now there are changes ahead for the group. For instance, the "Taste of Downtown" event that has been highlighting local restaurants for years will start focusing on a specific ingredient. For 2015, that will mean the event will focus on bacon. DSI is also appealing to the city for financial help to keep a sustainable budget.

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Chicago Singles Club probably sounds like a dating site - but it actually is an operation that records and releases free singles, of the musical variety. Chicago Singles Club is in its second year and features some of Chicago's best and most unique independent artists. We spoke with one of the founders, Jeff Kelley, to find out more:             

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