Popular Fanny Bay forest gallery closes; property sold

George Sawchuk’s “Wacky Woods” was a popular site with visitors for over 40 years

After 40 years of whimsy, the curtain is closing on the Wacky Woods.

The popular forest-based art gallery was located on private property in Fanny Bay. It was created in the 1970s and maintained by artist George Sawchuk, who lived next to the woods with his family.

Sawchuk, who was born in Ontario but lived most of his life in B.C., passed away in 2012 at the age of 85. According to his widow, Pat Helps, dozens of his artworks were displayed in the Wacky Woods, alongside inscriptions.

“He didn’t do it for the public, he did it for himself,” said Helps. “But someone noticed it and told someone else and the next thing you know, bus tours were coming in and everything.”

A trademark of Sawchuk’s was to incorporate the natural environment into his works. One of his practices was to carve nooks in trees, where he would place wooden books filled with quotations.

As the allure of the Wacky Woods spread, the forest gallery became a popular site for visitors and locals alike. Thousands of people from around the world have visited the Fanny Bay site over the last four decades to witness Sawchuk’s unique art.

“It was just different than their own backyard, I guess,” said Helps.

Read More: You can’t get any more Canadian than George Sawchuk

Video courtesy YouTube

Sawchuk’s works have appeared in galleries throughout Canada and the United States. In 2008, he received the honorary title of Valley Treasure from the Comox Valley Community Arts Council (CVCAC).

“You can’t get more Canadian than George,” noted CVCAC director Robert Moon when he presented Sawchuk with the inaugural Valley Treasure Award. “He spent the first half of his life cutting down trees and the second half paying homage to them with his provocative sculptures.

“He is a true Valley icon.”

Sawchuk was also elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and had sculptures in the Art Bank of the Canada Council. The Comox Valley Art Gallery created an exhibition in his name following his passing.

Helps said the decision to close the Wacky Woods stemmed from the high cost of maintaining it and the fact the forested area has become overgrown in recent years.

“I still get a lot of people coming, but it’s so overgrown and a lot of pieces are rotted and falling. It’s getting dangerous,” she said.

“I just want to let people know so they don’t drive all the way down here.”

She said she has sold the property “to a wonderful family” that has plans to build a home on the land.

—With files from Paula Wild

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New bench boss re-builds Comox Valley Glacier Kings

The new head coach/general manager of the beleaguered Comox Valley Glacier Kings… Continue reading

Courtenay clothing store continues to thrive 25 years later

Sharon Anderson continues to see some of the same customers she served… Continue reading

Float-plane crash near Oyster River leaves pilot injured

The plane crashed shortly after take-off from a private property and had no other passengers on board

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson in Courtenay to campaign with Brennan Day

BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson was in Courtenay Tuesday, helping local… Continue reading

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Most Read