The New Smyrna Beach Youth Council Task Force is seeking artists to paint realistic looking sharks in the city, kind of like the Cows in Chicago and other cities that have had fundraising statues.
The Task Force, which is made up of five New Smyrna Beach High School students, discussed the sharks when they met March 4 at City Hall.
The discussion included ideas about where to install five, 84-inch long, decorative shark statues throughout the city and how to get them painted. The sharks were created by Shark Sculpture Taxidermist Rick Hardy of Unique Species Inc. The statues also are about 1 foot in diameter and 2 feet in height.
Council members have been diligently working on the project since May 14, 2019, when they presented their idea to the City Commission. Since their meetings are conducted during the school year (January to May), they were not able to move forward last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and meeting restrictions.
However, they have resumed their regular meeting schedule. They are in the process of accepting submissions so local artists can apply to paint a shark statue. The artists must reside in Volusia County. It is up to the artist to determine the best style and design for their statue. As part of the application process, the artists must submit their design, which will be reviewed and finalized by the council. Artist applications are now being accepted with a deadline of April 4.
The core members (4 of 5) of the task force began serving as members during their sophomore year and are now graduating seniors. They were tasked with developing and planning a project to benefit New Smyrna Beach in some way.
The goal of this project is to connect tourists and locals in the shared experience that is inhabiting New Smyrna Beach, and to bring a positive light to the title Shark Bite Capital of the World. Inspired by other cities across the country who have adopted their own statues and animals, the council hopes the statues will serve as a unique, fun and meaningful addition to the culture of the community.
“I think it’s got to be exciting to see this vision you all had in 2019 when you first started talking about this and now, here we are,” said Mayor Russ Owen, who attended the meeting. “It’s here in front of us. It probably took longer than you ever thought it would take, but you stayed with it. I think you should be extremely proud that you are taking this vision, seeing it all the way through to reality in a way that is to be commended of a youth council for doing so. We’re here to help any way that we can as a city.”
The process to reach the shark idea was really long, said Youth Council Chair Shelby Balmer. “Eventually we stumbled upon the idea of having shark statues.”
The council serves as a “bridge” between the youth and the city, Shelby said. “Oftentimes people my age aren’t super involved with what’s going on in their local government. That was something I’ve always been interested in. We tried to think about what about our city do we as young people love. And one of the biggest things is its sharks.”
Vice Chair Payton Zitzka added, “We really decided to do the shark statues specifically because New Smyrna Beach is a town known for its artists and our art community, so we wanted to couple the ‘Shark Bite Capital of the World’ with our artists. We wanted to embrace the artistic characteristics in our community and bring out more families and youth together. We also had a goal to incorporate the businesses around our community more with the people so that was the idea of putting the shark statues in front of several businesses if they were interested in that, to bring more people in the community along with tourists to come and see the sharks.”
There is no decision yet as to where the statues will be placed. The ultimate goal is to have 20 statues throughout the city. The fundraising aspect also still needs to be completed, but funds raised likely will be used to buy more sharks or go back to the Youth Council.
Other members of the council are Olivia Graeff‐Fanelli, Morgan Hibel and Isabelle “El” Fahey. Paul Woodard is the council liaison between the city and high school.
Submissions may be emailed to City Clerk Kelly McQuillen at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to City Clerk, City Hall, 210 Sams Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32168.
For more information, call (386) 410-2637.