Rachel Otwell

Reporter & Assistant News Editor

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%.

Rachel Otwell

Members of a unique band based in Poland came to the United States for the first time earlier this month. Their first destination was Springfield.

On Tuesday, September 26th, join artists and public radio listeners at the WUIS/NPR Illinois station in Springfield, on the UIS Campus for an art opening and reception.

B.J. Pearce

The Black Sheep Cafe in Springfield has been serving up arts and cultural events for 12 years now. The venue will be commemorating that with an annual anniversary show this coming Saturday, Sept. 16th. The bill includes a new trio, Bottom Bracket, that's an "emo/indie outfit with strong punk and math rock influences." (Their music is featured in the interview below.) 

Over 200 people rallied outside the state capitol building in Springfield over the weekend to show support for immigrants.

Matthew Penning / NPR Illinois

A new task force has been formed to combat opioid abuse in the state.

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The Demo Project gallery in Springfield is an alternative art space that's been highlighting contemporary work from across the nation for four years now. It's slated to be demolished in 2018, but before that happens there's one more birthday to celebrate.

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Here's rule #3 in a new dress code for Glenwood High School in Chatham: "If wearing leggings or yoga pants, tops must cover the entire buttocks."

Donna Lounsberry

Springfield is knocking it out of the park lately with its musical productions and The Wiz is no exception.

Founding members of the group Laboratorium Piesni aka "Sound Laboratory" will be in Springfield over the weekend.

Rachel Otwell

First thing - the title of this post is not to suggest A.D. Carson won't ever be in Springfield again, but the bulk of this conversation comes from his latest visit, earlier this summer. 

NPR Illinois

Illinois is getting tougher on those convicted of hate crimes. In the wake of Charlottesville, the legislature passed resolutions taking a stand against hate. But resolutions are not legally binding.

Rachel Otwell

Recently, a fellow public radio journo wrote a piece about the Black Sheep scene for Noisey, a branch of Vice Media. If you are unfamiliar with the venue, and even if you are a regular attendee - it's definitely worth a read (and a look/listen - the pictures & music speak volumes.)

flickr / user: Benson Kua

LGBTQ rights activists say two pieces of legislation should be signed by the governor. Both passed the General Assembly unanimously.

Rachel Otwell

Over the weekend nearly 500 Springfield residents awoke to news that the state's top leaders had been ousted. Of course, it's untrue. It's a headline generated from James Pepper Kelly.

Rachel Otwell

Since last weekend's events in Charlottesville, Virginia – politicians and everyday citizens across Illinois have spoken out against the violence and hateful rhetoric.

Even though a state budget was finally passed earlier this summer - the process for payment is not automatic. Social service agencies are waiting on money owed to them by the state.

Central Illinois residents gather outside Springfield city hall.
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

About 300 people gathered near the fountains outside city hall in Springfield Sunday night. They were there to hold a vigil for racial unity in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From the scene in Charlottesville on Saturday.
A.D. Carson

A.D. Carson says he was asked by counter-protestors to speak out in response to the white-supremacist, "alt-right" and neo-Nazi organizers who had descended on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  Carson, who gained international attention for earning a Doctorate with a thesis in the form of a hip hop album, has been settling into his new home there. 

c/o Eagle Forum (L) & Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth

Illinois remains a battleground over women's rights.

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of  sex. 
—   The proposed Equal Rights Amendment. It might sound simple. It’s not.

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A new film debuts this Friday at the The Legacy Theatre in Springfield (101 E. Lawrence Ave.) As a unique spin, the movie will be screened at the same location it was filmed. For many in the local theater community, it is sure to bring some nostalgia, featuring the backstage area of what was once the site of the STC (Springfield Theatre Center.)

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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