Late last week, ten new sculptures were added to the nation’s first permanent Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton, Fla.

Recently named by TIME Magazine as one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” the UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA)’s Art In Public Spaces Program and is produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA). The purpose of the UMA is to create art that becomes marine habitat, expanding fishery populations and providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton.

The 2019 installation includes the following sculpture: To Replenish With Water by Beatriz Chachamovits (São Paulo, Brazil), Saguaro by Ghazal Ghazi, Bill Baron, and Michael Ramirez (Tucson, AZ), Aspiration by Shohini Ghosh (Highlands Ranch, CO), Let’s Flamingle by Rachel Herring (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Wave! by Benjamin Mefford (Wilsonville, OR), I Found It! by Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon (San Diego, CA), Love Thyself by Maxine Orange (Destin, FL), Let’s Not Blow This by Kevin Reilly (Montgomery, AL), Depth of Decision by Gianna Stewart (Dorchester, MA), and X.Muta by Vince Tatum (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).

On June 27th, around 80 onlookers, including many of the artists and project partners, were on site to view the historic deployment.

With support from Visit South Walton, The Alys Foundation, Visit Florida, and the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, the sculptures were 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. The 2019 installation joins the seven sculptures deployed last June on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum. The UMA patch will continue to be filled with several new sculptures annually.

“The CAA is proud to partner with SWARA to continue to grow the Underwater Museum of Art, and we are grateful for the many people and local businesses who support this project,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “Special thanks goes out to the artists who worked diligently and efficiently to deliver beautiful and solid work under a tight deadline. We know the UMA will be a popular destination for art lovers and divers and an educational tool about our marine ecosystem.”

“It was a beautiful thing to watch the second year sculpture deployment to expand the UMA. SWARA couldn’t be more proud to continue to collaborate with the CAA,” said SWARA President Andy McAlexander. “Through this unique partnership, our ability to raise awareness for both the arts and marine resources is unmatched. We’re already looking forward to next year as well as many more to come.”

Admission to the UMA is free. No ticket or reservation is required. However, the UMA is only accessible in person as a dive location. Divers who wish to visit the site can take a dive boat .93 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The coordinates for the center sculpture (SWARA Skull) are N 30*18.754  W 30*09.562. Out of respect for the art, boaters are asked to find the center location and then move away from the park to anchor in order to avoid damage to the artwork.

Visit UMAFL.org for more information about dive shops, tours and obtaining your certification while visiting South Walton. Photos and videos of the sculptures will continue to be updated online periodically to document the marine growth on each sculpture.

The 2019 UMA installation is presented by Visit South Walton with support from The Alys Foundation, the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, Visit Florida, Allison Wickey Studio Gallery, 30A Company, 360 Blue Properties, Fisher’s Flowers & Events, Galati Yacht Sales, Hilton Sandestin Golf Beach Resort & Spa, Reefmaker/Walter Marine, and Lindsay & Colby Cannon.

Both SWARA and the CAA wish to extend special thanks to our deployment partner, Walter Marine, for their dedication to excellence in helping bring our vision into reality.

Artists interested in submitting artwork for consideration to the 2020 UMA installation can visit UMAFL.org to complete a pre-application in anticipation of an Artist Call announcement in August.

Underwater photo credit to Spring Run Media.