Southwest Harbor filmmaker Thom Willey was recently awarded a Maine Artist Fellowship for a documentary about a group of middle schoolers studying right whales. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOM WILLEY

Grant supports Willey’s Calvineers film project



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Cameraman and filmmaker Thom Willey was recently awarded a $5,000 Maine Artist Fellowship Award by the Maine Arts Commission for a documentary in progress about the endangered North Atlantic right whale and a group of middle school students learning about the whales’ plight.

Bill McWeeny, a whale researcher and science teacher at the Adams School in Castine, has spent thousands of hours volunteering for the New England Aquarium supporting its field research on the species. He brought his love for the whales back to school and started the Calvineers, a student group named for a particular mischievous whale under study by the aquarium. Researchers later learned that Calvin is a female, but the name stuck. She has since had three calves.

The Calvineers are a group of student scientists who promote the conservation of right whales. The students stress education and conservation in their whale work. They work with marine scientists, legislators and those who work on the water to learn about right whales and discuss what actions can be taken to help their small population rebound.

“The Calvineers Movie” will help promote the continuation of the Calvineers program.

Willey has been a member and camera assistant of the American Cinematographers Guild since 1993. His films include “My Camera Is My Sketchbook,” a profile of America’s foremost photorealist painter Richard Estes, and “Rhythms of the Heart, a documentary about the late Passamaquoddy canoe and basket maker David Moses Bridges, who strived to preserve Wabanaki culture and protect environmental rights of Native Americans in Maine.

Willey said the $5,000 fellowship came as a “most wonderful surprise” and will enable him to update his photographic equipment for future projects.

Seven artists were awarded fellowships in this year’s program.

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