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, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, WorkingNow.org, and 51%.

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Since 2016, Marc Nelson has used his artwork to draw attention to the people, often children, affected by the Syrian civil war. He's connected his students with children there through artwork and messages sent via social media, namely Twitter.

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An Illinois man was found "not guilty” today for an arson case dating back to 1995. Bill Amor already spent 22 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as well as the 2016 election, have sparked renewed passion for electing women to office in Illinois.

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House Speaker Michael Madigan fired a staffer that a young woman who was working on campaigns says sexually harassed her. That's led to some debate over whether or not her claims were adequately addressed in the first place. 

Terry Farmer

For decades, women have been battling to break through the “glass ceilings” in their chosen fields. To the Front is an NPR Illinois series where we talk with female and nonbinary people about the way their identity intersects with their art and work. 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner likely considered the upcoming election while crafting the State of the State Address he gave Wednesday. There's a host of Democratic candidates vying to unseat him - and a single Republican who says she wants to get him out the way during the primary this March. They too are sticking to campaign points.

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A former white supremacist is coming to Springfield to talk about his shift from racial hate to "rational love." Joseph Pearce is Tolkien & Lewis Chair in Literary Studies at Holy Apostles College & Seminary and Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute. 

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Republican Governor Bruce Rauner presents his State of the State address in Springfield on Wednesday. Those who watch it might notice one color in particular being worn by many of those in attendance. We spoke with Chicago consultant and activist, Becky Carroll, about why:

flyer designed by event organizer, Kristin Walker

Since October, the viral spreading of #MeToo - a campaign that actually started much earlier with Tarana Burke - has led to more public discussion around issues of sexual assault, harassment and violence.

Jeff Putney

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

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Trump campaigned on building a wall between the border of Mexico and the U.S. While it appears he's willing to scale back that effort, targeting immigrants who do not have protected status remains near the top of his agenda. 

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."

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

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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. 

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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