Underwater Museum of Art adds new sculptures

special to GateHouse Media Florida
This is one of the underwater sculptures visible to divers who visit the Underwater Museum of Art off Grayton Beach. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Late last week, 10 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.

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, according to a press release from the museum.

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, Ariz.), Aspiration by Shohini Ghosh (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Let’s Flamingle by Rachel Herring (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.), Wave! by Benjamin Mefford (Wilsonville, Ore.), I Found It! by Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon (San Diego, Calif.), Love Thyself by Maxine Orange (Destin, Fla.), Let’s Not Blow This by Kevin Reilly (Montgomery, Ala.), Depth of Decision by Gianna Stewart (Dorchester, Mass.), and X.Muta by Vince Tatum (Santa Rosa Beach).

On June 27, 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.

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 degrees 18.754 W 30 degrees 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.

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