Rachel Otwell

Reporter

Rachel's reports focus on the arts, community & diverse culture. 

She's a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield, and while obtaining that degree she spent a legislative session covering news for Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees 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, D.C. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

BRENT LEVIN / CC BY 2.0 / FLICKR

Some lawmakers say legalizing recreational marijuana should be on the horizon for Illinois. But they admit there are still details to work out. 

facebook.com/pg/bikeforcomfortwomen

Activists from South Korea are bicycling through Illinois as part of a journey meant to draw attention to certain victims of war crimes.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

After the first day of a special session on education, Democratic lawmakers and the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner appear no closer to resolving the dispute that could hold up money for school districts. Rauner continues to demand Democrats send him the funding plan so he can change it and remove additional money for Chicago teacher pensions.

A website that popped up this month asks a question as its URL: arethereanywomenrunningforilgovernor.com. It then very simply answers it with a bright red "NO." A group of professional women in the state are behind the effort to draw attention to the issue.

Rachel Otwell

What's considered to be the first openly gay country album was recorded in the 1970s. It went largely unnoticed until just a few years ago. Having been resurrected and re-released from a label in North Carolina in 2014, the work has earned new fans and accolades. A performance featuring the singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, Patrick Haggerty, happened earlier this year in St. Louis. Haggerty, a 72 year old Washington state native, is touring the U.S. and seeing his ground breaking work gain acknowledgment in an era of increased acceptance.

Downtown Springfield will have an event appealing to those who like public art, food and drinks. The Art Alley Pop-Up is a collaborative effort between the Springfield Art Association & Downtown Springfield Inc.

COURTESY/Springfield Art Association

Scott Faingold from The Scene (rip) is back to talk about his recent story on developments at the Springfield Artist Association - including an exhibit up until Saturday called Living with Modernism: Mid-Century Decorative Art. We also hear from the two artists kicking off the SAA's new artist residency program.

Rachel Otwell

Across Illinois - social service providers are having to make cuts. The head of one shelter says without a state budget, its future is bleak.

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One of my favorite musical projects to come out of Champaign-Urbana is Mother Nature. It's a duo between Shasta "Klevah" Knox and Tierney Reed aka T.R.U.T.H. I spoke with them last year about their debut record.

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This Saturday in Springfield is a walk that will raise money for the Sojourn Shelter in Springfield, which could be forced to close because of the state's budget impasse. The walk will commemorate the life of Tamy Gomes Vasquez. She was murdered two years ago by her boyfriend.

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Coming up this weekend there will be events around the state celebrating Juneteenth. It's the oldest known celebration marking the abolition of slavery in the U.S. It marks the 19th of June, the day the announcement was made in 1865 in Texas that slaves were to be freed.

Felicia Olin

Perhaps you've come across one yourself - a painted rock peeking out at you while at Washington Park, or perhaps even at Hy-Vee. It's a trend that has taken off in cities across the country - painting and hiding rocks for others to find.

The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space has solidified its place in Springfield's cultural scene.

Rachel Otwell

This weekend, June 9 - 11th, dozens of punk, rock and indie acts will be meeting in Springfield. Dumb Fest takes place in Springfield's Southtown, though there will be a few corresponding shows in other locations, like Cafe Andiamo.

LISTEN TO AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST:

Jeff C. Williams

Title: The Water Towers Still Stand... Now How Does The Life Blood Come Back?

Medium: Acrylic/mixed media on canvas and wood panels

100 Expressions: Lynn Herzberger

Jun 6, 2017

Lynn Herzberger, Jacksonville

Title: "The Orange Show, The First Four Months"

Medium: Four poems for four months (inside tent card)

LISTEN TO AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST:

Title: "LockUp & DrainSwamp Tent Card"

Title: "Distress Flag"

NPR Illinois

In the wake of recent shooting deaths, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder has announced plans to get more kids into summer and night-time programming. So far $35,000 has been raised from local businesses to help in the effort.

Rachel Otwell

A rash of gun violence in Springfield has many on high alert. Vigils on Thursday, the day after a fatal shooting that took place at Comer Cox Park,  honored one of the latest victims.

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Willa Rae & the Minor Arcana will be playing Friday at an event in Urbana at the Cohen Building. It's hosted by a newly formed Girls Rock chapter. It goes from 6 - 8pm and other female-fronted bands will be playing.

Brian Mackey

Yesterday activists who had been marching from Chicago since May 15th arrived in Springfield. Some of them represented groups like Fair Economy Illinois and The People's Lobby

Rachel Otwell

About 20 years ago two high schoolers in Champaign got an indie label off the ground, propelled by their love for the DIY indie music scene.

The Scene Says 'So Long!'

May 25, 2017
NPR Illinois / Daisy Contreras

Rachel here. Just want to say it has been an absolute BLAST working with Scott over the past couple years, putting together segments solely devoted to arts & culture in central Illinois. 

Matthew Wilson (IG: @matchupee)

Lavender Country is the name of a band and an album that came out in 1973. It rattled some conservative cages, and then for a long while it seemed to be erased from the history books. Patrick Haggerty is the singer/songwriter, he had help with production from the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle. "At the time that we made Lavender Country we knew very well what it was. We also knew that the audience that was going to hear it was going to be out (of the closet), or coming out, and that the rest of the world was going to reject gay country music," says Haggerty.

100 Expressions: Thom Whalen

May 24, 2017

Thom Whalen, Chatham

Title: 4 Legs are Better-Keystone

Medium: Oil

Narrative: “4 Legs are Better-Keystone” reiterates the Animal Farm story by George Orwell. The trial of tears launched by Andrew Jackson relocated native Americans to the region of Oklahoma in 1839. Stereotypes of Indians are masqueraded in various memes throughout the work. Forced into a life not known to the native people they struggle in a white man’s world with casinos, salmon farms and their connection with nature left mutated by the Keystone pipeline.

We spoke with two artists to find out more about their works. The two are a couple who live in Springfield.

facebook.com/Club-Station-House

This year will be the seventh one to see a PrideFest in Springfield, celebrating the local LGBTQ+ community through food, entertainment and fun. This year there's the new addition of a parade to kick off the event, and its Grand Marshal is Angelica Sanchez - the drag queen who was the lead performer at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The Scene Previews PrideFest In Springfield

May 18, 2017
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This week Rachel and Scott talk PrideFest, which happens this weekend in Springfield. This year, for the first time there will also be a parade. Read Scott's story about it here. Also this weekend, the Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair ... and much more. 

Delinda Chapman, Springfield

Title: “Follow Me”

Medium: Acrylic/Mixed on Paper on Board

Narrative: This painting grew from working with the word immigration. The end result, stemming from my feelings about immigration, is this painting - the first in my series on immigration.

Rachel Otwell

For over a year now, PWR BTTM has been my immediate family's most-listened-to band. I have head banged and twirled around my attic and living room countless times to their debut album with my child. Just Wednesday of this week I bought tickets for us to again see the duo perform in St. Louis over the summer. That will not be happening for us, in light of sexual assault allegations the band has gone public in acknowledging, as of Thursday. The tour might be canceled as the situation develops, but regardless I can't imagine going to see them perform again. 

The Scene Has The Scoop On An Underground Show

May 11, 2017
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This week Scott and Rachel preview music that will be showcased in a Springfield basement/DIY venue on Tuesday the 16th. The band Listener is from Arkansas and has a unique blend of eccentric rock and roll and spoken word.

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