Rachel Otwell

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%.

Flickr user Celeste Lindell / "Art supplies" (CC BY 2.0)

Teachers and administrators are working on new guidelines for art education in Illinois. Some schools have no art programs, while others have limited time to teach it.

New federal standards were released last year, though they came with no mandate. The State Board of Education has been organizing meetings for teachers to make the guidelines fit for them.

Jonathan VanderBrug is with Arts Alliance Illinois, an advocacy group that is also helping plan meetings. He says the process is meant to show schools why education in the arts is important.

WUIS

A civil rights icon made a stop in Springfield this week to talk about activism and his new books. 

John Lewis, a Congressman from Georgia, is the last living member of a group of civil rights leaders known as the "Big Six." Martin Luther King Jr. was also in that group, and mentored Lewis.

ARTSALLIANCE.ORG

Hundreds of artists and administrators met last week to discuss the state of the arts in Illinois.

Politics dominated the discussion, with a focus on ever-shrinking budgets for many arts groups. That includes the Illinois Arts Council Agency, which is the state department that oversees government spending on the arts.

Funding for the council has diminished from about $20 million dollars in 2007 to less than $9 million in 2012.

Ra Joy heads Arts Alliance Illinois, which is the state's largest such advocacy and membership group.

WUIS

A new law will require schools to install carbon monoxide detectors.

The law comes after an incident last year, where about 150 students and staff members became ill at the North Mac Intermediate School in Girard. The cause was a faulty exhaust pipe in the heating system.

A carbon monoxide detector would have alerted those in the building. While the detectors are required for many structures, schools were left out. 

ARTSALLIANCE.ORG

Illinois advocates for the arts say Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan for more budget cuts is bad policy. 

Since 2007, the budget for the Illinois Arts Council was already cut in half. Under Rauner, it would drop to $8 million.

Ra Joy heads an organization that represents hundreds of artists and cultural groups in the state. He says another cut would hurt education and tourism:

"If we're really going to be serious about making Illinois more competitive and more compassionate, we need to be serious about investment in the arts and our broader creative sector," Joy said.

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