Langford’s Paul Lewis is the artist behind the new pieces of driftwood art overlooking the ocean at the Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood. Last week Lewis created a horned owl, eagle, and a nesting raven (pictured). (News Gazette file photo)

Thousands support driftwood bird sculptor after threats

Petition launched to support artist’s display on Esquimalt Lagoon

A petition to support the artist behind driftwood bird sculptures at the Esquimalt Lagoon has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.

Paul Lewis isn’t phased by threats to destroy his enormous driftwood bird sculptures. In fact, the Langford-based artist said the harassment has empowered him.

Lewis’s massive driftwood birds on the Esquimalt Lagoon have attracted the attention of hundreds of beach-goers. More than 50 birds, including ravens, owls, eagles and hummingbirds dot the shore, celebrating nature and the nearby Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

But not everyone loves the driftwood statues.

Lewis received text message threats from a man who wanted the statues destroyed and said he would go so far as to rally a petition for their removal.

But community members came back in full force.

Colwood resident Allie Lima launched an online petition last week after hearing about the threats. By Jan. 7 the petition had more than 4,800 signatures – a few hundred shy of its 5,000-signature goal.

“We see a lot of stuff happening and everybody waits for somebody to make a move. I decided, ‘you know what, I’m going to start a petition,’” she told Black Press. “What can we do so it doesn’t get vandalized, it doesn’t get destroyed?

Lima plans to bring the petition to the city of Colwood and ask for support protecting the birds.

“This is art, it’s beautiful. It’s not impeding anything. It’s actually bringing awareness to the bird sanctuary – to the birds that are there,” she said. “I want the city to look into it and see if there is something they can do to protect it.”

And this wasn’t the first time the artist’s birds have been threatened.

In July, the hummingbird, baby osprey and oystercatcher statues were stolen and nothing but the body remained of a cormorant.

It took about 10 hours of work for Lewis to rebuild and repair the birds.

Lima said there will always be naysayers, but she was happy to see how quickly community members offered their support.

“These sculptures have become local icons and they are beyond creative and beautiful. So incredibly West coast. We LOVE them!” commented Sarah Fairbass.

Judy Holzemer wrote: “The artist has taken pieces of the beach and transformed them into amazing pieces of art for everyone to enjoy. Being made of wood from the beach, they blend beautifully and naturally with the area. I feel if anyone finds it offensive, then don’t look.”

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