Since 2014, Casey Riordan Millard's "Shark Girl" sculpture has been a star attraction at Canalside, where her toothy grimace, amphibious anatomy and quirky presence have drawn thousands of adoring fans.
But those throngs of visitors, who tend to be hands-on with their favorite piece of public art, have left the sculpture in need of frequent maintenance and touch-ups.
Now, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is in discussions with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and Be Our Guest Entertainment, which oversees Canalside's operations, to determine who is responsible for keeping the sculpture in ship-shark-shape.
"Yearly, we've repaired her as needed," Albright-Knox Public Art Curator Aaron Ott said. "There will need to be a longer-term solution arranged, and we're talking to our partners at Canalside and BRG to come to an agreement."
Ott said the gallery has sent a proposed plan for financing the upkeep of "Shark Girl" to its Canalside partners, and that he expects the parties to reach an agreement about the sculpture's upkeep soon. A call to Jon Dandes of Be Our Guest Entertainment, a subsidiary of Rich Products Corporation, was not returned.
While neither the gallery nor the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation would go into detail about those negotiations, both sides sought to reassure Western New Yorkers the city's most popular piece of public art in decades would remain in its Canalside home.
"We expect that the Shark Girl sculpture will remain at Canalside, continue to be properly maintained and serve as an ongoing source of enjoyment and enhance the Buffalo waterfront experience well into the future," Christopher Schoepflin, a senior vice president for ECHDC parent Empire State Development said in a statement.
The debate, Ott said, is about "who's going to maintain it, who's going to watch over it, who's going to repair it."
"We'd love to come to something that protects the work and protects the asset and provides it long term," he added. "It's a great problem to have, so we're looking forward to solving it."