Friday, August 10, 2001

San Jose has been overrun by a school of sharks. Dozens of six-foot long sharks (very colorful, too, I might add) have been spotted along the city streets, and are apparently only a sample of what's ahead. Over the next couple of months, the count is expected to rise to 100 of the beasts.

SharkByte Art is placing these fiberglass sharks on San Jose's sidewalks, parks, and plazas to [hopefully] raise money for area non-profits. Each shark has a "sponsor" who has donated $1,000 and selected an artist to prepare the shark for public view. The sharks will be put on display between August 1 and October 31 of this year, then auctioned off in November. The "sponsor" of each shark also gets to choose the non-profit that will benefit from the auction proceeds.

Does this sound familiar? Several years ago Chicago did a similar stunt with "Cows on Parade." The cows then made a second appearance in New York. Of course, Chicago and New York are two cities known for their support of the arts. This, however, is San Jose. More to the point, this is San Jose after the dot-com crash.

Will the auction bring more than $1,000 for each shark? Or would everybody have been better off if the sponsors just donated their grand directly to the non-profits and skipped this shark business? We'll find out in November.

I first noticed about four of the sharks last week, along Santa Clara Street, but didn't get the full story behind them until I returned from vacation yesterday. Of course, my first thoughts were that they were pretty cool, but I wondered how long they'd last before they were covered with graffiti (or urine, or ?). It will be an interesting few months which will hopefully prove my cynicism to be wrong.

But why sharks? Because San Jose's only claim to professional sports fame is our NHL hockey team, The Sharks. Many downtown restaurants proudly display signed team photos, and occasionally sticks, pucks, shirts, and other team paraphernalia. And so, San Jose has adopted the shark as its unofficial symbol.

Remember, San Jose does not touch the ocean. We're not exactly land-locked, but we might as well be. Only the very southern tip of the San Francisco Bay reaches San Jose, and that tip is nothing but salt marshes. No sharks there. Sharks over the hill, in Santa Cruz. But in San Jose, we just have fiberglass sharks. And they're multiplying.

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