In 2018, The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) in partnership with South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) and support from Visit South Walton, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alys Foundation, and Visit Florida joined two of South Walton, Florida’s most beloved attractions – the arts and the Gulf of Mexico – with the introduction of The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit.
The UMA is the first presentation of the CAA’s Art In Public Spaces Program and augments SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitat and expanding fishery populations while providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton.
Currently, Gulf coastal waters off Walton County are 95% barren sand flats. Deployment of sculpture as artificial reefs will provide a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat where none exists. The UMA was deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef project that includes nine nearshore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore in 58-feet of water. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated to the CAA for the purpose of a permanent underwater sculpture exhibit.