Standing at eight feet tall, ten vibrant mermaid statues gather dust inside of a storage unit located off Highway 123 awaiting approval for their placement.
An entire year after the call to artists was made, and over three months after their unveiling, the mermaid statues have yet to be placed throughout town.
The statues are to be placed as permanent art installments throughout the city of San Marcos, but until the locations are approved, the dark, cold storage unit is their temporary home now after the reveal to residents in Sept. 2017.
Jamie Shelton, a local artist chosen for the project, said she has not been given an exact date as to when her mermaid, along with the others, will be placed permanently.
“I mean obviously we would like them to be up in their place but Lisa Morris (recreation manager) said that will happen by the first quarter of next year,” Shelton said. “They will eventually get up and we will eventually enjoy them.”
Shelton said the artists were paid in full upon completion of the statues.
Dahlia Woods, art commissioner and owner of Dahlia Woods Gallery, said that the placement is being delayed because the approval of locations has not yet been finalized.
“In the next few months, we should know exactly where (the mermaid statues) are going. I know they are going to be spread around the city and in the children’s park, and various locations around the Square,” Woods said. “(The arts commission) is just trying to decide what the best statue is for the best location… (The arts commission) working with the city as to the restrictions as far as placing them in public venues.”
Woods said that part of the approval process depends on the local and state governments because the different locations are properties that are owned by each.
Ruben Becerra, arts commissioner, said there is a specific process that must take place before the statues can be placed.
“The subcommittee talks about places where they should be located, and based upon of course community feedback and assessments and the spirit of the effort, and then the subcommittee will vote on sites selected, bring it to the arts commission, and then the arts commission can modify it or accept it, and then the city council will give the final approval of its placement,” Becerra said. “There are many people that need to be incorporated into the decision making so that most people, because you never get them all, can be happy with the placement.”
According to an article by The University Star, the city of San Marcos recruited artists for the project in December of last year. Around 60 applicants submitted their unique designs, and ten finalists were chosen by the arts commission.
The statues were unveiled in front of a large crowd during the Aqua Faire in September at Plaza Park.
The Aqua Faire unveiling was the grand finale following a mermaid parade that made its way through downtown San Marcos that morning. At the Aqua Faire, the artists were introduced to the community, and art commissioners announced that the mermaids would be placed in various undisclosed locations along the river, as well as some locations near the Square.
Dahlia Woods said Aqua Faire was a great chance to draw a large crowd to the newly created mermaid statues.
“It’s a wonderful project and it gave the artists an opportunity to show their work at the unveiling,” Woods said. “That was something that I worked hard to coordinate.”
However, the Mermaid Parade and Aqua Faire was not the first time mermaids were a trending topic in the city of San Marcos.
According to an article published on Collectors Weekly, mermaid culture in San Marcos stems from the amusement park that was hosted at Aquarena Springs in the 1950s. Performers, known as “aquamaids,” would perform for guests of all ages under the waters of Spring Lake. The shows continued until the 1990s when the park was purchased by Texas State.
In recent years, mermaids have noticeably been on the rise again. The city currently has a Mermaid Society, and a mural was commissioned near the Square. On occasion, mermaids can even be seen along the San Marcos River.
Morghan Parker is among the few residents that own and maintain fully functioning mermaid tails and costumes. Parker performs at children’s parties as a mermaid, and can often be found swimming in the river.
The statues send a message that the mermaid is the symbol of San Marcos. Shelton said there was some controversy surrounding this decision, but she believes the mermaid is a great way of combining the natural aspect of the city with the human aspect.
“The mermaids (are) kind of a symbiosis of nature–the river and the human element,” Shelton said.
According to the Mermaid Society website, the creatures symbol unites the community by “working collaboratively toward shared values for creative community impact.”
Other cities have been known to have symbols of similar nature, Wimberly, for example, is home to several decorated boot sculptures. Becerra said the mermaid statue project is a great start to the San Marcos’ community building art pieces.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to (support) something; mermaids… are being conveyed and portrayed in a wholesome manner,” Becerra said.