Sculptures take flight 

Artwork lands in Sea to Sky as part of Lions Society’s Eagles in the City fundraising program


Most of the bald eagles in the Sea to Sky corridor tend to congregate around Brackendale, but these days, you may have noticed the odd colourful eagle hanging out around Whistler.

Stephen Miller is the president and CEO of the B.C. Lions Society For Children with Disabilities, which includes Easter Seals and runs the Easter Seals camps in Squamish, Winfield and Shawnigan Lake.

Miller is also the man in charge of the Eagles in the City program, an annual fundraising event that supports children with disabilities. It was inspired by a similar artistic project launched in Zurich, Switzerland years ago.

"An art company by the name of Lascaux wanted to promote their paints, so they created these cows and they had Cows in the City in Zurich," Miller said.

Since then, cities around the world have adopted this art project model, including Vancouver.

"About seven or eight years ago, we decided to do the first one for Vancouver and we did Orcas in the City," Miller said.

The original project was very successful, with 120 orcas placed throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and about $800,000 raised.

B.C. Lions Society went on to change the event into Spirit Bears in the City, which was even more successful than the orcas, raising over $1 million for the cause, with the top bear fetching $50,000.

"This year, because orcas come from the water, and the spirit bears were on land, the third in the trilogy must be out of the sky, so we decided on Eagles in the City," Miller said.

There are about 130 eagles, which are placed throughout the province. Miller hopes this year, the event will raise about $500,000.

As producers of the project, the B.C. Lions Society provides the canvases - blank 7 ½-foot custom-formed fibreglass bald eagle sculptures - and various businesses and individuals sponsor an artist to transform the blank canvases into distinct pieces of art. Styles range from classic and traditional to stylistic and modern, with noted artists like Richard Hunt and Vicki English coming on board to participate in the program.

The completed eagles are then placed in public spaces throughout participating cities, and a Bald Eagle Flight Path Map is distributed to show the location of every bald eagle.

The sculptures will remain on display until April, when they are then auctioned off to the highest bidder at a gala event at the Westin Bayshore and an online auction.

Most of the money raised through the program actually comes from the spring auction proceeds, and Miller encourages people to tune in online to make a bid or just see who the lucky bidders are.

"It's a very expensive project for us to put on, so we need the auction to be successful in order to make anything to put back into services," Miller said.

If a large eagle sculpture won't fit into your apartment (or your budget) people can still get involved in the fundraiser by voting in the People's Choice Awards and naming their favourite piece, or purchasing a chocolate eagle from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Scotiabank.

"We think the quality of the artwork is stunning," Miller said. "We have been completely embraced by all artists, especially the Native community."

The fundraiser has also grown far beyond just Vancouver, extending into the Interior, onto Vancouver Island, and all the way up to Sea to Sky territory. This year, they have two pieces on display in Squamish, both at the Squamish Adventure Centre - Ken Skoda's "B.C. Candy" and "En-cha-kai" by XWA-LAC-TUN and Racelle Kooy.

Two more eagles are displayed in Whistler. One, created by Paul Packham, Daniel Slotten and Wallace McKee, is entitled "Full Metal Jacket" and located at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Whistler-based artist, Penny Eder Martyn, actually created two pieces for the Eagles in the City program: "Summer Camp Days" which is located at the Easter Seals House in Vancouver, and another entitled, "Neverending Story," on display in front of the Creekside branch of Scotiabank.

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