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South Walton's Underwater Museum of Art

South Walton's Underwater Museum of Art

Maybe you’ve visited a sculpture park before. But have you ever visited an underwater sculpture park? Art lovers and diving enthusiasts can now do just that in South Walton, Florida. This summer, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), in partnership with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) and support from the National Endowment of the Arts, unveiled the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA). It's the first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit in North America. What's more, it’s a perfect blend of South Walton’s most beloved attractions – the arts and the warm, crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Undersea Art

 The UMA, located 55 feet underwater just offshore at Grayton Beach State Park, is easily accessible to SCUBA divers. Currently, the initial phase of the project features seven pieces created by local and nationally recognized artists selected by the CAA. The first sculptures to populate the Underwater Museum of Art include:

  • “The Grayt Pineapple,” by Florida-based artist Rachel Herring
  • A welded stainless steel statue of a deer called “Self Portrait” created by Justin Gaffrey (2005 Visit South Walton Artist of the Year)
  • “SWARA Skull,” by Vince Tatum
  • Evelyn Tickle’s “Concrete Rope Reef Spheres”
  • “Propeller in Motion” by Marek Anthony, Allison Wickey’s (2011 Visit South Walton Artist of the Year)
  • “Anamorphous Octopus,” and “JYC’s Dream” by Kevin Reilly and the South Walton Montessori Academy students and teachers

A New Kind Of Ecotourism

It’s not just about beautiful underwater art, however. Additionally, there’s an ecological component. Almost all of South Walton’s coastal waters are barren sand flats. So, adding sculpture as artificial reefs provides a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat where none exists. Soon, the UMA will become part of the natural aquatic landscape. It’s part of a larger project to construct artificial snorkeling, diving and fishing reefs throughout the area. In other words, say hello to an entirely new form of eco-tourism.

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