Every year, my mother-in-law gives me a desktop tear-off calendar that features different worldly events and unique travel curiosities. A couple of months ago I tore off a page, and there on the following page was Buffalo’s very own Shark Girl. It was the first time that I had come across a Buffalo-related “wonder” on the 2019 Atlas Obscura Page-A-Day Calendar, and I thought to myself, How cool is that?” Shark Girl was in great company along with hundreds of other iconic landmarks and events, including Crystal Worlds in Austria and Cave of the Hanging Snakes in Mexico.
A couple of days ago, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) made an announcement that Shark Girl is in need of some serious love, due to excessive deterioration that calls for repair and maintenance to the tune of up to $49,900. The scope of work includes ongoing annual maintenance of the piece, such as any future paint touch-ups and conservation. But first, the public work of art will be coming down for a short period of time at the end of summer, to undergo conservation/maintenance, before it is reinstalled at a later date. The ECHDC has entered into a contract with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG) to handle the art conservation project.
“Shark Girl is a beloved, whimsical year-round fixture at Canalside but needs some rejuvenation after flashing her toothy grin for so many selfies over the years,” said ECHDC Board Chairman Robert Gioia. “This agreement with the Albright-Knox will allow Shark Girl to better handle all her fans interacting with her, as well as stand up to harsh Buffalo winters, for years to come.”
Shark Girl first came to Canalside in 2014 as a public art initiative between the AKAG, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo. The work by Casey Riordan Millard sits at the foot of a Whipple Truss Bridge. To date, minor repairs and touch ups have been performed off-site, but alas the continued deterioration has become a real problem that needs to be addressed before it’s too late. That means that Shark Girl will depart Canalside shortly after Labor Day, and will be on vacation for approximately 8-10 weeks. Millard will oversee the project, which is being funded by the New York Power Authority Relicensing Agreement.