Sharks

Venice Public Art Advisory Board Member Fran Valencic looks at a sculpture of a nurse shark and its baby, one of 10 that Gulf Coast Community Foundation is offering to the city as a gift in honor of its own 25th anniversary.

VENICE — In recognition of its 25th anniversary this year, Gulf Coast Community Foundation wants to give the city a fishy gift: little sharks.

More specifically, little sculptures of sharks. Ten of them, a foot or so long, to be semi-hidden around downtown Venice so people will explore the area looking for them.

Foundation Senior Vice President for Community Investment Jon Thaxton told the Public Art Advisory Board the idea was inspired by a visit to Greenville, South Carolina, which is famous for its “Mice on Main” sculptures.

He said he “accidentally” found one of them, then another, and “immediately I was hooked,” he said at Wednesday’s special meeting.

Of course, sharks are more appropriate for Venice, he said, which bills itself as the Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World. Each of the sculptures is of a species found in the Gulf now or in the past, he said, including the extinct megalodon and snaggletooth sharks.

They’ve been cast in bronze by Bronzart Foundry in Sarasota and, assuming all approvals are obtained, will be installed by city personnel on low walls or the sidewalk in places where no one can trip over them “even if you intend to,” Thaxton said.

The city has given a preliminary OK to the locations, five of which are in public right of way and five on private property whose owners have also approved.

The foundation paid for the sculptures and will pay for the materials to install them, he said, but wants staff to do it to make sure it’s done to city standards.

Thaxton said he hopes installation can take place in late February or early March so seasonal residents and visitors can see them.

Besides being a tourist attraction, though, the idea is to “explain the beauty and wonder and value of sharks,” he said.

Teachers could develop curricula about them and take students on field trips downtown, he said.

At least one retired teacher is on board.

“I love the idea,” Board Member Fran Valencic said.

“We’re very proud of it,” Thaxton said.

The project will go to the City Council with the board’s recommendation for approval.

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