Last week, nine new sculptures and a Super Reef Anchor Point 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.
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 2022 installation includes the following pieces of sculpture: Currents and Tafoni by Joe Adams (Ventura, CA), Pirate Shipwreck by Sean Coffey (Pittsburgh, PA), Bloom Baby Bloom by Brit Deslonde (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), The Seed and The Sea by Davide Galbiati (Valreas, France), Fibonacci Conchousness by Anthony Heinz May (Eugene, OR), New Homes by Janetta Napp (Honolulu, HI), Arc of Nexus by Tina Piracci (Richmond, CA), We All Live Here by Marisol Rendón (San Diego, CA), and Common Chord by Vince Tatum (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).
On June 21st, more than 60 onlookers, including several of the artists and project partners, were on site to view the historic deployment.
With support from Visit South Walton, Walter Marine/The Reefmaker, and the Florida Department of State; Division of Arts and Culture, 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. This installation joins the 25 sculptures previously deployed on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum to a total of 34 sculptures. The UMA patch will continue to be filled with several new sculptures annually.
Individual sculptures are sponsored by Beachy Blooms, Buddy’s Seafood Market, the 2021-22 CAA Staff, the Ellis Family, Hilton Sandestin Golf Beach Resort & Spa, the St. Joe Community Foundation, SWARA, and Walter Marine / Reefmaker.
“I continue to be amazed and inspired by all the groups and individuals who make the UMA installation happen each year, '' said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “The CAA is grateful for the dedication of the artists, fabricators, deployment team and partners. We could not be prouder to work alongside project co-founders Allison Wickey and SWARA to build this unique environment for creativity and education.”
“Absolutely epic! This year's UMA deployment was the best one yet. Perfect sea conditions with plenty of sunshine and an incredible group of people working together to make a difference -- the UMA spirit was alive and well on June 21st!,” said SWARA President Walt Hartley. “ With 34 total sculptures now, you can really start to see and feel the vision and future of the Underwater Museum of Art -- 58 feet down, you are literally surrounded by these fantastic art pieces and the colorful reef life that calls the Museum home. More sculptures will be added each year, growing the dive site and providing valuable new habitat to our precious marine life. We owe the continued success of the UMA project to the amazing support from our community and our sponsors, the creativity, expertise, and professionalism of the Reefmaker Crew / WalterMarine, and the hard work of our most favorite partners in the whole world - the CAA Team! This would not be possible without 110% effort from everyone involved, and we knocked it outta the park!”
Admission to the UMA is free, however, the site 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 new Super Reef UMA entrance are N 30°18.754 / W 86°09.521. Out of respect for the art, boaters are asked to anchor on or near the Super Reef Anchor Point to protect the sculptures from unintended contact or damage.
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.
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 2023 UMA installation can visit UMAFL.org to complete a pre-application in anticipation of an Artist Call announcement later this year.