Rachel Otwell

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

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. She reports for and produces NPR Illinois' original program, Illinois Edition. She founded and co-hosts The Scene, which airs on Thursdays and features cultural happenings in the central Illinois region. Heartland is another podcast she started and co-hosts, which considers spirituality from a variety of perspectives.

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%.

Larissa Kramer

Ususally, Roger Ebert's Film Festival aka Ebertfest honors a person. This year however, it chose to recognize Champaign county's Alliance for Inclusion and Respect. The organization helps fund mental health and disability organizations.

Rachel Otwell

This week we have another conversation from Champaign, this time with a self-proclaimed townie who keeps himself more than busy when it comes to creative culture in the Champaign-Urbana area. As Seth Fein tells us in this interview, after a stint running The Accord venue, previously The Highdive, he'll be focusing on other projects, like the online magazine he co-founded, hyper-local "Smile Politely."

On Illinois Edition, we hear an excerpt from this presentation which took place earlier this month.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

This week Scott and Rachel travel to Champaign where they meet Austin McCann, he's the general manager/programmer (or anti-programmer as he calls it) of the Art Theater Co-op which specializes in "community theater" in a 104-year-old building. Tune in to hear what they're all about!

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Ever since the crisis in Flint, Michigan was publicized, concern over the presence of lead in water has reached a fever pitch. Law makers across the country have reacted with legislation addressing the issue in their home states. Illinois is one of them - a new law requires some public schools to test for it.

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Over the weekend a facility providing services to the needy, including a food pantry and prescription medication service, was severely vandalized. 

The Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, has exonerated ten clients so far. They have over 2,000 prisoners seeking their services, and about 40 cases they are currently working on. The group has a limited staff plus volunteers who are largely comprised of students and lawyers working pro bono. Executive Director, John Hanlon, joined us to talk about recent developments and upcoming events. 

The Scene Meets Capital City Improv

Apr 6, 2017
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This week on The Scene Scott and Rachel talk with Drew Stroud, a founder and member of a new comedy group. Capital City Improv's first show is at The Legacy Theatre in Springfield on Saturday night.

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The name was chosen on a whim - because no one else would have it. That was over five decades ago. The band's initial success came after winning a contest that got them a record contract.

Zach Savich and Hilary Plum headshots with book covers
Courtesy Zach Savich and Hilary Plum

Zach Savich and Hilary Plum, a married couple and awarded and acclaimed authors, will share their memoirs in Springfield on Thursday April 6th.

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On Monday, a trio called The Peoria Three will present at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. 

An annual event helps kids express and cope with the pain of losing a loved one. Staab Funeral Homes and Counseling Associates of Springfield have joined forces to present the ‘Kids Good Grief Camp.’ There’s one taking place this Sunday. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Last month, a Springfield police officer named Samuel Rosario beat a resident of east Springfield. It was captured by a body camera. Rosario is facing charges and is on unpaid leave. 

A video of Springfield police Officer Samuel Rosario beating up a 19 year old on the east side of Springfield has gone viral - it was captured by a body camera.

investigatinginnocence.org

Earlier this month, Quincy native Curtis Lovelace was found not guilty after the second trial that accused him of killing his first wife, Cory Lovelace. Curtis served as a prosecutor and before that played football for the U of I. His former wife was also a college grad, and a stay-at-home mom for their four children. 

investigatinginnocence.org

Curtis and Cory Lovelace were two Quincy natives who met in high school and went on to marry and have four children. Referred to as pillars of the community,  Cory's death sent shock waves throughout the small town over a decade ago.

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This week Rachel and Scott talk to Louie Fatale of Minikiss. The tribute band is comprised of little people, Fatale plays the role of "Mini Gene."

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Robert Moore has spent over 40 years in law enforcement. The Mississippi native and veteran moved to Illinois where he began his career as a State Trooper in Rockford. He went to be appointed as a U.S. Marshal. There are fewer than 100 who serve at a time, and each one is appointed by the president.

The Scene With Poet Ian Winterbauer

Mar 16, 2017
A Jabber Publication / Pat Yaegle & Illinois Times

Ian Winterbauer says his poems deal largely with the Midwest - it's rural, poor towns and the eccentric characters therein. He says he's anti-academic, that "anyone could write poetry." Well, he certainly can.

Sarah-Ji

The Lit Review is a grass-roots podcast based in Chicago. It's headed by two young women out to educate and inspire change. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

When it comes to a civically engaged life, politics is a spectator sport for much of the United States. After all, most estimates claim 40% or more of eligible voters opted out of the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, for many who do vote, that action is about as involved as they'll get with politics.

Rachel Otwell

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered in Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum last Friday. They were there to hear Neil deGrasse Tyson speak.

flickr / user: Benson Kua

Illinois State University in Normal kicked off a new Queer Studies concentration, under the Women & Gender Studies department, this academic year. It's a burgeoning field, one that might not be as well understood as more traditional academic areas of study.

Native American & Indigenous Student Organization - UIUC

Chief Illiniwek was retired from being the official University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign mascot a decade ago, but he's still a large presence on the university campus. Some students say that’s not okay.

The Scene With Writer Emma Wilson

Mar 9, 2017
Rachel Otwell

This week we hear from Emma Wilson. The Springfielder co-wrote/co-directed the new short film Sarah, along with Dave Heinzel - it stars actor Stella Cole. Wilson is also a poet (recently profiled by Scott for the Illinois Times, here) and event organizer, she also has a blog about "creative recovery" called Mental Thrillness. Tune in to hear what she's up to & a sample of her poetry!

chanceraps.com

Chance the Rapper is on a mission to better fund education in the state, particularly in Chicago. The musician, who grew up on the south side of the city, has won three Grammys at the young age of 23, making him well-known outside just the hip hop world. He's been using that fame to hold Gov. Bruce Rauner's feet to the fire when it comes to the education funding issue. 

Radon Lounge

This week we preview a show at the enigmatic Radon Lounge (flyer above) - for more info, here's the event page, if you need directions, shoot a message to the group here.

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On this episode we get to know Ari Honarvar, an Iranian-American, artist, activist and more. We also visit with visual artist Amanda Grieve at her Edinburg farmhouse, in rural Sangamon County.

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Diaz Lewis is a collaboration between Cara Megan Lewis of Kansas City, Missouri, and Alejandro Figueredo Diaz-Perera of Cuba. Their art comes from a variety of media, one particular project utilizes pillows. That will be part of what's on display at The University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery in an exhibit called "Safe Harbor: Work by Diaz Lewis."

Rachel Otwell

African American read-ins started to be promoted by educators nationwide in 1990. The purpose is to highlight Black authors during Black History Month. Lincoln Library, Springfield's public library,  joined in this year, listen here:

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