University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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Collaboration Responsible for New
Chippewa Valley Museum Exhibit

 MAILED:  March 26, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - A new 5,000-square-foot exhibit currently under construction at the Chippewa Valley Museum will include an interactive DVD titled "Barn Stories," the result of collaboration between several University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumni, an art faculty member and UW-Eau Claire's art department.

According to museum designer Jeanne Nyre, a 1984 graphic design graduate of UW-Eau Claire, "Barn Stories" started as a series of oral history interviews with three regional farm families, funded by a grant CVM received from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nyre, who grew up on a dairy farm, produced the DVD interactive, based on these original interviews, along with co-producer Sara Anderson. Over the course of a year, Nyre followed the farmers going about their chores, taking more than 500 still photographs, asking questions and recording the sounds of work in the barn and in the field.

As "Barn Stories" evolved, another UW-Eau Claire alumnus, Benton Ward from Woodbury, Minn., contributed to the project by filming and editing an introduction and commentary by folklorist Ruth Olson of UW-Madison's Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture. Ward, at that time a student majoring in communication and electronic media, was recommended to Nyre by one of her former teachers, art professor Steve Terwilliger, who had been serving as a consultant on the project and allowing Nyre to use university equipment and facilities. Terwilliger knew Ward from his video and Photoshop classes.

According to Terwilliger, Ward is a dynamic, high-energy person good at "just going for it" and finding ways to get more experience in his chosen career. In addition to working at UW-Eau Claire's TV-10, Ward had attended a workshop at a film and television school in Maine the previous summer, and one of his instructors there, a working cinematographer, had hooked him up with the opportunity to work for six weeks as a production assistant for an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles. That job led to others, which helped give Ward the experience Nyre needed.

For the introduction to "Barn Stories," Nyre said she took Ward to her own farm, where they set up lights in the haymow and Ward filmed the segment with Olson. He also worked on editing and cutting together the various parts of the video, including the many still photos taken earlier by Nyre and Anderson. The finished piece, a combination of video, still photos and voice-over narration, provides a glimpse into the lives of three Wisconsin farm families, the challenges they've faced in recent years, and the different choices and decisions they've made. The three segments are titled "Staying Small, "Going Big," and "Moving On."

"Benton was a fun person to work with and I definitely believe he will go far in his field," said Nyre. "He was very personable and patient and contributed some great technical and artistic skills."

Ward, who graduated in 2002, is now a video editor with The Creative Edge, a full-service production company in the Twin Cities area. He said besides being a lot of fun, the project provided him with some valuable experience for his resume and probably helped him get his current job. He estimates that he spent about 40 hours working on the video.

"It was my first real project, and I really wanted it to be done well," said Ward. "And besides, Jeanne and Sara were just such nice people to work with. It was a great opportunity for me," he said.

Nyre said another UW-Eau Claire alumna, 2001 graphic design graduate Almira Downs, who had worked on a number of past museum projects, also helped create the homepage for this DVD.

"Barn Stories," which uses touch-screen technology that allows a viewer to choose segments to watch, as well as the convenience of repeating individual segments, is currently available for viewing at the Chippewa Valley Museum. It will eventually be installed as part of the museum's major NEH-funded exhibit, "Country Places," currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2004.

Although the video was produced at UW-Eau Claire, the Science Museum of Minnesota added the touch-screen technology, said Nyre, adding that she's grateful to both institutions for donating the use of facilities and equipment. The NEH, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wisconsin Arts Board all provided funding for the project, she said.

The museum awarded Ward and Terwilliger honorariums for their contributions, and Terwilliger said he was surprised and pleased to add his to a fund the art department has started for purchase of a new video camera.

Nyre said she was so happy with this community/university collaboration she hopes any other UW-Eau Claire students interested in volunteering to work on future museum projects will contact her at the Chippewa Valley Museum, 834-7871.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
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Updated: March 27, 2003