Where eagles dare 

Fundraiser promotes art and nature

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It may seem odd to those struck raw by peaks and cornices, but Stephen Miller found a treasure trove of inspiration years ago in Saskatchewan, the land of flat earth and big sky. As president of B.C. Lions Society, he was there for an Easter Seals meeting when he happened across the statuary of a pig. Later, while visiting his aunt in Rochester, New York, he bumped into a bejeweled horse, also a statue.

"So I came back here and told our staff, 'We have to find something from the Northwest,'" he remembers.

Those two discoveries became the impetus for Eagles in the City, a public art project with installations planned for across the province. The campaign culminates in three auctions, and the proceeds are pumped into Easter Seals programs.

"The project is about taking beautiful eagle sculptures and giving them to the best artists in British Columbia municipalities and having them apply their magic and bring some colour."

Late last week, a 7.5-foot bird was unveiled at the Adventure Centre in Squamish. Though originally just white fibreglass with metal framing, it's been made lavish by local artist Ken Skoda, thanks to the sponsorship of Century Signs. Skoda, who was away in the Interior during the unveiling, worked a number of provincial themes into the body of the bird, from orcas to oceans, mountains to sunshine.

Two similar works will appear in Whistler over the next couple months. Province-wide, there'll be 100 eagles between now and the 2010 Olympics, and the group is planning a Bald Eagle Flight Path map to usher tourists from perch to perch. Come 2010, there'll be a gala and a few auctions, the largest of which will be in Vancouver.

This is the third in a series of similar events. In 2004, Orcas in the City was launched. Two years after that, Spirit Bears in the City took off. With water and land explored, Miller and his associates wanted an animal of the air.

"But, also, the eagle represents strength, courage and other qualities we try and instill in the kids as we teach them to focus on their abilities, rather than their disabilities," said Miller.

It also doesn't hurt that Squamish boasts the largest Easter Seals camp grounds in British Columbia, and that just happens to be right across from a prime eagle viewing location.

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