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%.

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.

New World Design Ltd.

Pigs may soon fly in Chicago. That's if a massive piece of installation art gets approval to take off. The idea was inspired by the album Animals by Pink Floyd, which itself was influenced by George Orwell's "Animal Farm," political fable critical of inequitable social structures like class.

penguinrandomhouse.com

Many people are aware of the Broadway hit show Hamilton. It's based on the book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow. Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University,  tells us lawmakers in Illinois and the nation could learn a thing or two from reading it. Here's her review:

Twitter/Morgan Timms

Flooding from spring storms started over a week ago and put much of the state on alert. On the other side of the Mississippi River, some homes and buildings in eastern Missouri have been submerged and five people died. 

The Scene Talks 'Music At The Museum'

May 4, 2017

The Illinois State Museum in Springfield is back up and running after its hiatus due to the state's budget woes. And there' s a new concert series to boot. Illinois musician and all around folk music connoisseur, Chris Vallillo, is hosting and playing at the events. They are the second Thursday of each month. For more information on the Music at the Museum concert series, click here. For info on the first show next week, click here.

Ada Jay

Much like the music she helps create, Jessica Knight is an artist who defies simple labeling. As vocalist, lyricist and bassist for the band Looming, she draws inspiration from a variety of source material. She came of age musically in the Southtown Springfield scene, centered around Black Sheep venue and a punk DIY ethos. 

Brian Mackey

Progressive women's rights activists rallied in Springfield Tuesday. The organizers say over 100 groups were represented from across the state. Jennifer Camille Lee is co-president of Action Illinois and co-leader of a local group called Women Rising.  She co-chaired the "Illinois Women March on Springfield" event.

Heartland Ep. 11: Processing Death

Apr 26, 2017
Rachel Otwell

On this episode of Heartland, we take on the topics of death and coping with the grief it often brings. 

Professor Amy McEuen speaks at the March for Science in Springfield IL
Pamela Salela

Much like the Women's March on Washington, the March for Science became a national cause with cities across the country participating. Springfield was among them, with a crowd estimated to be over 700 people this past Saturday.

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.

facebook.com/Kumler-Outreach-Ministries

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. 

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