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%.

courtesy / Rachel Otwell

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:

Mark Seliger / lifeafterhate.org

Christian Picciolini used to be a neo-Nazi. He was raised by Italian immigrants in Blue Island, a Chicago suburb. He says he didn't grow up with hate ideologies at home, but as a teenager he wanted the community and sense of purpose white supremacists promised him. He went on to lead white supremacist bands and become a large part of the movement.

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This week it was discovered that over 150 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in the University City suburb of St. Louis had been vandalized. It hasn't yet been officially called a hate crime and there are no suspects in custody. There's been speculation hate was at play however, and it comes at a time the nation is reportedly seeing a surge in related crimes.

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This week we're joined by Allison Lacher & Jeff Robinson - two instrumental forces in bringing contemporary and provocative artwork to the central Illinois region. 

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Champaign-Urbana is the only city in Illinois, other than Chicago, to have an official chapter of the Black Lives Matter organization. Evelyn Reynolds has been heading it.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Across the country, activists who say they stand in opposition to many of the Trump administration's goals are organizing. Many call themselves the 'Resistance', a nod to terminology previously used by those living under authoritarian regimes. They've been key players in the Women's March on Washington (and in other cities), which has been called one of the largest demonstrations in the U.S. 

Manipulation of the truth has long been a tool commonly used by political leaders throughout the Western world, says Peter Fritzsche, a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

I was born and raised in and near Springfield. However it wasn't until I was a freshman in college over in Ohio that I was taught the NAACP was founded as a result of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot

thirdcoastpercussion.com

This year at the Grammys - Chicago native Chance The Rapper took home multiple awards, including one for Best New Artist. But another Chicago based group took home its first win, though the category it took the Grammy for goes a little more under the radar.

Ed Wollet/Arlin Peebles

Private companies are not regulated when it comes to putting partisan or controversial content in public places. But that’s not to say they are protected from criticism when they or their employees decide to do so. One area trash company found that to be true after a photo of a bulletin board in one of its locations was shared on social media around 200 times (and counting), starting over the weekend.

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Social media has proven an effective tool when it comes to organizing for advocates and activists. But it's also been proven effective at spreading misinformation, which now includes false warnings about immigration stings.

The Deep Hollow perform at NPR Illinois Suggs Performance Studio.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Deep Hollow is a Springfield band that has been performing together for three years. Last November they joined us in our Suggs Studio during the 2016 Thank You Fest to play for our donors. 

Geoff Leathers & Ellyn Thorson perform at NPR Illinois
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

During our 2016 Thank You Fest at the station, we were joined by two young, emerging musicians.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is among those attending the US Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. She says a common idea being heard is that municipalities are crucial in providing innovation and fiscal stability. In Illinois she says that's particularly true given the nearly 2-year impasse preventing a state budget.

The Scene On "ArtLiterations" & Roots Tunes

Jan 19, 2017
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This week Rachel and Scott talk about the Bedrock 66 show at Bar None Friday night featuring Suitcase Junket. We also hear about the latest ArtLiteration event, Thursday night (those happen monthly.) Plus lots more! Tune in:

Meg Evans Lazare, Debbie Bandy & Keri Tate
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The result of the presidential election has caused many people to get more involved politically. On January 21st, the day after president-elect Donald Trump is to be officially sworn in as commander-in-chief, thousands of activists are expected to gather in Washington DC for what's being called the "Women's March on Washington."  

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.

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