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

Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the capitol for an activist event that organizers called a "Women's March to the Polls." It was the second year the city took part with others across the country in rallying and marching for women's rights.

Rachel Otwell

Today in Springfield what appeared to be several hundred people gathered around the Lincoln statue outside the State Capitol building to rally and march for women's rights. It's the second year for such a gathering, and organizers say it will continue to be an annual event through Donald Trump's presidency. 

flickr / user: Benson Kua

President Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in the state, and what might be ahead.

CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Stephen Houldsworth began a life in activism and community organizing decades ago, during the AIDS crisis. He was part of movements in New York and other major cities, and now calls St. Louis home. NPR Illinois previously spoke with him during a visit to Springfield to perform his original one-man show, "Protests & Punk Shows While Making Other Plans: Musings of a Grumpy Old Gay Man."

courtesy

Hinduism is known as the oldest religion still being practiced, and it's one of the most popular in the world.

courtesy

Across the country, it appears that a cultural sea change is taking place. Sexism that has long been inherent in society is getting acknowledged perhaps more than ever, in large part due to the #MeToo movement and activist women who have organized as a result of the 2016 presidential election. It’s unclear what lasting effects might take hold.

Instagram handle: @demoprojectspace

For the past four years, Springfield's DEMO Project has been drawing in artists from New York, California - and many places in between. 

courtesy

Carolyn Owen Sommer is a name many in the Springfield arts community will know. Her work is part of a new exhibition called 'Paperworks' opening at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, in the SAA Collective Gallery. The reception is Friday night from 5 to 7, it is free and open to the public. Owen Sommer's pieces will consist of a series of images depicting women and landscapes, they combine watercolor and collage. Artist Teri Zee will have 3D whimsically clothed birds on display, and Joan Burmeister's colorful pieces will also be included. The exhibition will be up through March 1st. We spoke with Owen Sommer to find out more about her experience as an artist in the central Illinois area, and her forth-coming show and exhibition:

courtesy

Across the country record-breaking freezing temperatures have apparently led to the deaths of at least eight people, likely homeless, stuck out in the cold. Earlier this week a man was found dead in or near a dumpster in St. Louis. 

While across the country hate crime rates rose after the presidential election, Illinois has passed some laws addressing the issue. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and FBI statistics - the last quarter of 2016 saw hate crimes go up more than 25% in the U.S.

Advocates say progress was made this year when it comes to rights of Illinois residents who are LGBTQ+.

80% of the families served through Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County consist of women and their children. Shayne Squires is the development manager for the organization. She says a new initiative wants to build a home funded entirely by women - and built by them as well.

still from video by Chris Withers Photography

Some visitors to downtown Springfield have been met with a surprise this year. It’s a welcome one for fans of the blues and soul music.

courtesy

Every second Tuesday of the month, a roots or folk act plays at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. It's a series that kicked off earlier this year and now has funding through 2019.

Veronica Mullen

Across the country, it appears that a cultural sea change is taking place. Sexism that has long been inherent in society is getting acknowledged perhaps more than ever, in large part due to the #MeToo movement and activist women who have organized as a result of the 2016 presidential election. It’s unclear what lasting effects might take hold.

Rachel Otwell

Bill Crook grew up in Springfield and was inspired to draw by his mother - an active member of the Springfield Art Association. His new book, titled Springfield Illinois: A Pen & Ink Artist Looks at His Hometown, covers the artist's life work thus far. He's been at it for over 40 years. For more information about a reception and reading of the book at The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space in Springfield on Friday night, click here.

courtesy

From now until March 20th primary - the race for governor has candidates buying advertising slots and pounding the pavement to get their names in front of voters.

Carter Staley

At 6 foot 5 inches, Ian Winterbauer is a tall man. And a witty one too - his poems posted online are often accompanied by the hashtag #tallestpoetonearth. He dresses conventionally - usually in a flannel shirt and jeans. He has golden blonde hair and hip, clear frame glasses. 

courtesy

For a true sense of the impact Ken Bradbury has had, his Caring Bridge website lends a clue. It's been visited more than 60,000 times and there are hundreds of comments from those whose lives he’s touched, many of them his former students. 

courtesy

Rebetika is a popular and controversial style of music in Greece. It's folk music with deep roots. Some have called it the "blues" music of Greece. 

Haley Scott / @suagrmilkk / haleyscott.com

Mother Nature is Shasta "Klevah" Knox and Tierney Reed aka T.R.U.T.H. We spoke with them about a year ago to learn more about the self-titled debut album and their plans to cause positive change with hip hop.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein's downfall due to sexual assault and harassment claims from numerous women - it's glaringly apparent that the issue is not limited to a certain industry or segment of society. Statehouses across the nation have joined in the #MeToo movement. Some are saying state legislatures harbor environments where such activity is commonplace.

Nearly everyone will visit a cemetery at some point in their life - but most don't realize the rich diversity of history they have to offer. They contain insights about folklore, religion, art and society at large. So postulates Hal Hassen, who has been a cemetery enthusiast since his youth. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he would explore historic cemeteries. 

Sarah Jane Rhee

October 26th is internationally recognized as "Intersex Awareness Day." Intersex is a term used to describe a variety of conditions in which a person has naturally occurring reproductive organs that defy the typical designations of male or female. It's the "I" in the LGBTQIA+ umbrella - and it's not something that is often talked about, even though some studies say it occurs in up to 1.7% of the population.

WIkipedia commons/taken by W. Wadas

The Springfield City Council stalled on considering a resolution that would have declared it a "Welcome City" for immigrants. Seven members voted to table the issue - while only three supported a vote.

Since this past weekend, women and men have been sharing their accounts of sexual violence with the hashtag #MeToo. While many assumed the movement started with actor Alyssa Milano's tweet about Hollywood producer/mogul and alleged sex offender Harvey Weinstein, some are pointing out that a black woman named Tarana Burke used the same terminology for a project also mean to address sexual assault.

Elizabeth Belletire House

A new effort to get kids more active and in touch with their thoughts has come to Springfield's public school district - in the form of yoga classes. It could also have implications for how students are disciplined in the future.

Flickr/user: fauxto_digit

A measure has been introduced in Illinois as a response to the deadly summer rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville.

UIUC School of Social Work

About a hundred students traveled to Washington D.C. last week to urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act. Among them was Bruna Cardoso, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate student,

llinois State Museum, Dickson Mounds Museum. Artist, Andy Buttram.

Across the country, some cities are giving up Columbus Day and replacing the designation with ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The state of Illinois has tried to find a middle ground.

Pages