UW-Eau Claire Faculty Member Wins Film Festival Award

PRESS RELEASE Aug. 4, 2003


EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Cynthia Gray, associate professor, Foundations of Education, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was recently notified that her documentary film, “Termespheres: Total Worlds,” shown at the fifth annual da Vinci Film & Video Festival in Corvallis, Oregon, has won the da Vinci Spirit Award. The film festival was held July 18-20 in conjunction with the city’s da Vinci Days festival, which celebrates Leonardo da Vinci and the marriage of art and science. The film festival alone draws crowds in excess of 6,000, screening more than 20 hours of short independent films from all genres.“We received over 240 films this year for approximately 80 slots of programming time,” said Tina Buescher, director of the film festival. “We can only screen a third of the films we receive. Getting into the festival can be competitive enough; winning the da Vinci Spirit Award is truly special.”

“Termespheres: Total Worlds,” is a documentary about the work of artist Dick Termes, who creates abstract & realistic environments on spheres and polyhedrons using six-point perspectiveHis work has drawn the attention of artists, mathematicians, scientists and novices alike for the past 30 years. Gray, who first met Termes in the early 1990’s and became intrigued with his work, as well as his interdisciplinary approach, calls him “the ultimate artist-educator.” She began interviewing and filming him in 1996, with hopes of completing a documentary some day, and she brought that ambition with her when she joined the UW-Eau Claire faculty in 1998. An interdisciplinary group of UW-Eau Claire students and faculty eventually became involved in the early conceptualization of the film, and a faculty/student research collaboration grant, received from the UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Programs in spring and summer 2000, three students — Andy Franko from art education, Jeff Shurtleff from business MIS and Ryan Stilp from communication and journalism — as student interns, collaborated with Gray on the pre-preproduction phase of the documentary. The first and second stages of the project involved the students in preliminary interviews with the artist, video documentation of his work and philosophy, a search of relevant literature, and preliminary exploration of the essential concepts that characterize the artist's work. Gray gave special credit to Shurtleff, who served as assistant editor and technical consultant for the film to its completion and has since indicated a serious interest to pursue video production as a business. She also said she was thankful for the support she received from the UW-Eau Claire School of Education and foundations of education department over the 2-year production period.

 The da Vinci Film and Video Festival’s programming director, Sue Queisser, selected the film as the da Vinci Spirit Award winner. “Every year we give out this award to a film that we think somehow reflects the concept of da Vinci Days, either in content or how the film was made,” said Queisser. “We were really struck by the documentary ‘Termespheres’ because the artist's work incorporates painting with inverted three-dimensional representation that also ties into mathematical concepts. Since we are part of a festival that celebrates art, science and technology, we felt this was a perfect fit.”

 A panel of judges that included the owner and curator of Corvallis’ independent theater, Avalon Cinema, and various professors of film and theater studies at Oregon State University, also named 12 other winners this year in a variety of categories. About 20 filmmakers were in attendance to see their work screen, including Gray. The film festival also offered two filmmaking workshops, and Will Vinton, creator of Claymation and founder of Will Vinton Studios, delivered this year’s filmmaking keynote presentation. Gray said she was not only delighted with the award, she also had a great experience at the festival itself. “I wanted to understand the entire festival design,” said Gray. “It involved the entire community in a three-day interdisciplinary endeavor, and I am interested in how UW-Eau Claire might sponsor something similar.”

 In May 2001, Gray used the documentary as the focus of a public forum at UW-Eau Claire where Dick Termes, artists, art historians, mathematicians, art educators, curriculum developers and other audience members explored the crossroads of art, math and science and how such explorations can enhance learning for students.