Shark statue project comes to life in New Smyrna Beach
NEW SMYRNA BEACH – As scary as a 7-foot shark statue looks, local artists and high school students have managed to make five.
The city has installed five decorative shark statues around town – painted by five local artists – as part of a nearly three-year project created and led by the NSB Youth Council Task Force.
The statues have their own unique designs, each drawing inspiration from the artists’ personal lives, as well as their experience as residents of New Smyrna Beach – the latter being particularly significant, as the city is known as the “Capital of the World shark bite”. ”
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Five members of the youth council (all New Smyrna Beach High School students) came up with the idea in May 2019, but the COVID pandemic put the plans on hold.
One of those members, Shelby Balmer, is now in college.
“It’s amazing to finally see this project come to fruition,” she said. “To see the work and energy I put into it reflected in the actual results was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Personally, this project showed me the systems of action within local government and gave me a new appreciation for working within a community to effect change. »
Balmer said it was especially important for her to have contributed with her friends and local artists to the project.
“I think it’s significant that this is a project designed and built by students at New Smyrna Beach High School with members of the local community,” Balmer said. “To me, these sharks represent a supportive community where people have come together to achieve something.”
Five local artists came to help make the project a reality:
Eliza Midgett said the inspiration for her very colorful statue came from her experience growing up at the beach with “images of sand dunes and the paths through them etched indelibly in my memory”. She named her shark statue after her late brother Sam, “who loved the ocean and was a very colorful character himself.”
“I used those memories as a base to paint ‘Sam the Shark’ and then added a few additional elements that represent the beach in New Smyrna where I live, such as a crazy little crab, the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, a turtle of the sea, even a bit of condos are woven into my abstract painting,” said Midgett. “I used bright colors and unusual shapes that reflect the character of this wonderful, quirky, and picturesque seaside town.”
She said there has been a “buzz” about the project in the city for some time, with locals excited to finally see the statues arrive.
“When I designed ‘Sam’, I thought its unusual and eclectic design would reinforce what makes NSB unique,” she said. “The Shark Project adds to the already strong and growing importance of art in defining our community. I’m so happy that ‘Sam’ makes people smile, and I’m very proud to be a part of this project.
Location: Outside the Brannon Center at 105 S. Riverside Drive
2. Shyriaka Morris
Morris is a fourth generation resident of New Smyrna Beach. She said her 11-year-old daughter, Judea, helped with the design, which both encapsulates their love for the city.
“I wanted to give (the community) something fun and easy to understand when they visit my shark,” Morris said. “We decided to paint happy children spending time at New Smyrna Beach swimming on their floaties in the ocean. We also included a landscape so viewers would know it was the beach and not ‘swimming pool.
Morris said projects like these mean “the advancement of art in public spaces is moving in the right direction”. She said the city should have more opportunities for local artists to display their talents publicly and permanently, not just at galleries, festivals and exhibitions.
“We painted the town seal of NSB to show our love for me being fourth generation and my daughter being a fifth generation from NSB,” she said. “We were inspired by the contributions of our ancestors who helped us have this opportunity to showcase our talents.”
Location: Outside the Live Oak Cultural Center at 1050 Live Oak Street.
3. Cathy Berse
Cathy Berse’s shark statue at the New Smyrna Beach City Marina was inspired by the beauty of the city. Berse said she wanted to capture what’s more about the city than its fame as “the capital of shark bite.”
“It has been said that art is worth a thousand words,” Berse said. “Before writing, there was art that told stories of places and the people who lived there.”
His statue captures both the distinctive historical look of the mainland side of the city and the beach side.
“What inspired me was the beautiful place we live in,” she said. “I wanted to connect the mainland of New Smyrna by the beach. One side of my shark represents our historic business center while the other represents our bustling beach. We have the best of both worlds here in little New Smyrna.
Location: Outside the city marina at 201 N. Riverside Drive
4. Margo Wenzel
Margo Wenzel’s design is entirely dedicated to the city’s music scene. The natural gray tone of the shark’s skin is only broken up by colorful designs from several different instruments.
“I was inspired by NSB’s musical offerings for my shark theme,” Wenzel said. “There’s live music in town at the Farmer’s Market, Old Fort Park, Riverside Park, the various street fair events, countless bars and restaurants and The HUB I hope my shark design represents love from NSB for music through the singing shark with whimsical musical instrument tattoos.
Location: Outside the Development Services building at 214 Sams Avenue.
5. Randal Preston
Randal Preston is a teacher at Indian River Elementary School. She said her students were part of the “journey” to paint her shark statue, named Ponce, which functions as a window into sea life, with several colorful fish swimming among the branches and leaves of sea plants.
“It’s so rewarding for them to see our work not only exhibited but made public,” said Preston, who is also a professional artist specializing in sea life and swordfish beak paintings.
Her inspiration, she says, came from “every aspect of my life,” which includes fishing with her family and teaching at Indian River Elementary.
“I always preach the power of art. It can influence, entertain and educate your audience, and most of the time without even using words,” she said. “Having the opportunity to invite my students into this process, to learn about their natural environment and to see the influence of their art in action was everything to me.”
Location: Outside the Alonzo “Babe” James Community Center at 201 N. Myrtle Ave.
The shark statues were made by Rick Hardy, a shark taxidermist at Unique Species Inc., according to the city.
City Clerk Kelly McQuillen has closely followed the progress of the project over the past few years, helping students work their way through city commission meetings and getting the project approved.
“It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to see this project come to fruition through the hard work and dedication of the members of the Youth Council Task Force,” McQuillen said in a press release.
Balmer said the city is a “unique and special place that deserves to be presented as such”.
“I believe the project represents New Smyrna Beach not only as a nod to our title as the Shark Bite Capital of the World, but also in its ability to showcase the rich and vibrant artist community and a great example spirit within New Smyrna,” Balmer said.
“I hope this project will continue to represent the best of New Smyrna Beach.”