Rachel Otwell

Journalist / Illinois Edition Producer / Host: The Scene, Heartland

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%.

The Scene Visits 'Heathers: The Musical'

Jan 12, 2017
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This week Rachel and Scott visit The Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield during a rehearsal for Heathers: The Musical, which opens this weekend and is for three days only. It's based on the movie, a cult hit from the eighties, which stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. 

Maryam Moustofi / St. Francis of Assisi Church
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

We visit a historic Springfield location, the St. Francis of Assisi Church. It was built after nuns decided to create a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients out in the country side -  it now includes a healing center of a different sort, The Chiara Center. We learn what that is, plus we talk with Maryam Mostoufi, the new president of the local interfaith organization. She was also the first  female Muslim to be inducted into the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Wikimedia / Damonsacks

Health reporter for The State Journal-Register, Dean Olsen, has been looking at the hurdles in place when it comes to healthcare access, many as a result of the state's budget problems. 

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The Outlet

The Outlet in Springfield is a non-profit organization that mentors fatherless male youth ages 8 thru 22 and helps them make responsible decisions and explore their talents. It also hosts events meant to bridge the gap between police and the community at large.

The Scene Gets Literary

Jan 5, 2017

This week we hear an appearance on This American Life by author Roxane Gay. Perhaps most well known for her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, Gay recently released a collection of short fiction stories called Difficult Women. We preview that, and Scott pays homage to one of his favorite poets, Steven Jesse Bernstein. Tune in!

Given the breadth of the output of work -- (21 episodes!) it seems impossible it's been just a year since The Studio Show premiered. The goal originally was to create a program for public access. Instead it's become a web-based showcase of Springfield talent including short films, musical performances, a mini-series and much more. The crew now has a new vision, as we hear on this episode.

headshot: Patti Sullivan-Howd

Marc Nelson is a junior high art teacher in Kewanee, Illinois. His own art has largely focused on war, he's been awarded for his paintings of scenes from the Holocaust. The current crisis in Syria however has been his latest war of focus. It's led to numerous pieces depicting atrocities happening there.

The Scene Plays 'Santa Is Real'

Dec 15, 2016

This week Scott previews his feature story for the Illinois Times on the "state of the (visual) arts" in Springfield. Read it here.

illinoistimes.com

Jennifer Watkins has been in the news since 2008, when her ex-husband Steven was shot to death while attempting to pick up their daughter from a home Jennifer lived in with her family in Ashland, Illinois. Jennifer's grandmother claimed she shot Steven in self-defense and is in prison for the crime.

U of I

An effort based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign connects the past and the present in order to better understand the global history of genocide. It's called the "Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies" initiative and brings together experts from a variety of fields who research "history, literature, memory, and artistic representation of genocide and trauma."

Rachel Otwell

This week Rachel and Scott head to Springfield's oldest home, Edwards Place. It's on the Springfield Art Association's campus in the Enos Park Neighborhood. They hear from the organization's director, Betsy Dollar, for a year-in-review interview.

Rachel Otwell

In major cities the pop-up shop is a well-known fixture (well - that's not the right word, considering their ever-changing nature, but you get the idea.) Springfield now can boast its own fleet of shops serving up one-of-a-kind, unique goods made by artists and artisans. For those who want to shop locally and skip the mall and west-side traffic jams this time of year, it's also a great chance to mingle downtown and absorb the holiday decorations and spirit.

Rachel Otwell

A group of nuns in Springfield is participating in a long-term medical study. For those involved, it’s another way to serve others.

Rachel Otwell

A forum hosted at University of Illinois Springfield Tuesday will focus on combating hate that's spread online by neo-Nazis and other terrorist groups. The discussion is titled “Protecting Ourselves from the Lure of Online Violent Hate Ideologies” and will be in Brookens Auditorium from 7 to 8pm, and is free and open to the public.

Rachel Otwell

This week Rachel and Scott take a trip to corner of 11th and South Grand in Springfield where a block or so known as Southtown contains an in-door skate park, skateboard shop, music venue, soon-to-be-rehabbed recording studio and Dumb Records.

Nic Cable / Rachel Otwell

The personal is political on this episode. But that's nothing new, religion and politics have a long and vast history of intersection.

Heartland Ep. 7: Tarot & Energy Healing

Nov 29, 2016
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

In this episode, Rachel & Keil spend a day visiting a "magical penthouse" -- a top-floor apartment in Springfield where Teri Freesmeyer performs various types of healing energy work. They later climbed a steep staircase into Rachel's attic where Keil did a tarot reading for Jenny - who wanted to know how to better address symptoms of anxiety.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Citizens Police Academy in Springfield is one of about 30 in the state. It's a series of courses that give residents an inside look at the profession. 

Trigger Gospel live in studio.
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

We already interviewed and wrote about the critically acclaimed band out of Chicago. Here's the recording from when Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel played in our Suggs Performance Studio. The band played a pared down, "un-plugged" sort of set - joining Anna were Paul Bivans on drums, Michael Krayniak on bass, and Andon Davis on guitar. Enjoy!

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Springfield couple John Malan and Carley Mattimore have an interesting background when it comes to their belief systems. Carley has a background in psychotherapy and John has retired from a career in computers. They've traveled the world on journeys related to their spirituality, and they started their own organization, called the Ahara Spiritual Community.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This week Rachel and Scott ventured out of studio, to Kingsway African & Caribbean Cuisine restaurant in Springfield. The menu offers many dishes unique for the area, including authentic jerk chicken created with a Nigerian recipe, goat curry and many vegan & vegetarian offerings. They sat down to lunch with local poet Johari Osayi Idusuyi who garnered national attention last year for her appearance at a Trump rally in Springfield.

During a time contentious rhetoric abounds and many people say they have fears about the worst of humanity, here's a story about a man making a life-saving sacrifice for another - someone he didn't even know:

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President-elect, Donald Trump, ran a campaign that many considered harsh toward immigrants - especially those without legal citizenship. This week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Chicago will remain a “sanctuary city” regardless of immigration related mandates that may come from the Trump administration. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is asking Governor Bruce Rauner and the legislature for further protections.

AJWF Photography

August Francis is a photographer based in central Illinois, many of his photos come from Springfield and Decatur but he also travels for his shots. Many of his photographs come from events that involve subcultures. A project called 'Now, See Me..." combines photos and interviews in a nuanced way that depict people who are LGBT and/or Queer as well as other aspects of their personality. 

Late last month a bus carrying about 25 Texan students, mostly Latino, rolled into Springfield. The group was on a mission concerning the legacy of Santa Anna, who led many battles during the Mexican American War. Springfield is home to something that was once very close to the Mexican General, and the students say it belongs back in his home country, all these decades later.

Cody Duncum

U of I student and 22 year old singer/songwriter Emily Blue believes music has the power to heal and to educate. Herself a survivor of sexual assault - she devoted her new album, Another Angry Woman, to feminist issues and causes. The work includes interviews she did with friends about street harassment and other forms of sexism they face as females on a regular basis. What she earns from the record will be donated to the organization RACES, which stands for Rape Advocacy Counseling & Education Services,  in Champaign.

Rachel Otwell

As of about 9:30 Tuesday night, many who had gathered at the Corner Pub & Grill in Springfield seemed to believe Hillary Clinton could still pull ahead by gaining more electoral votes than Donald Trump was racking up. For those hoping for that outcome, it was wishful thinking.

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Lily Hoang says she's grappled with multiple failures in order to find her true calling. As a teen she assumed she'd go to conservatory for classical music. But, it turns out she was a good musician, just "not great." So when she noticed her college roommate getting positive attention for her poetry, Hoang decided she'd give it a  go too. No dice. "As things so happen, I'm a terrible poet ... it was just a failed attempt at everything. And then I found non-fiction and the essay form, and I fell in love."

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It's well known that with the increased popularity and domination of big-box stores came the decrease in demand for mom & pop shops. Many across the country have struggled to stay afloat, and many have closed down. That's certainly what photographer Rich Saal found when earlier this year, he revisited the locations of independent stores he had photographed as a college student in southern Illinois in the early eighties.

Rachel Otwell

This week Rachel & Scott are joined by two locals who are heavily immersed in the community theater scene. Phil Funkenbusch and Reggie Guyton come by the studios to talk about A Raisin in The Sun - the classic play opens at the Hoogland in Springfield this weekend - more info here.

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