Underwater Museum of Art in South Walton now open

June 25, 2018

SWARA SKULL designed by Vince Tatum gets deployed into the Gulf on June 25. Photo courtesy Andrew McAlexander

History was made on June 25, 2018 as the first underwater museum in the U.S. was deployed near shore off of Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach. The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) in partnership with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) launched the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) that consists of seven permanent sculptures in approximately 58-60 ft. of water. In addition to the art aspect, the sculptures will serve as artificial reefs, providing a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat where none exists.

Admission to the UMA is free. No ticket or reservation is required. However, there is a fee to enter Grayton Beach State Park. The UMA is only accessible in person as a dive location. Divers who wish to visit the site can take a dive boat .7 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The coordinates for the center sculpture (SWARA Skull) is Latitude N 30 18.754 Longitude W 86 09.522. 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.

The sculptures were set in a circular array into the Gulf. Coordinates shown. Illustration courtesy SWARA.

The UMA was deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef project that includes nine near shore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore. The sculptures were transported by ship to the gulf and carefully sunk to the floor where they will begin to attract marine life. The sculptures are in a circular array approximately 25 ft. apart.

Click here to learn about the additional inshore reefs at Grayton Beach State Park.

The UMA is the first presentation of the CAA’s Art In Public Spaces Program and will augment 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.

Anamorphous Octopus by Allison Wickey gets deployed. Photo courtesy UMA, SWARA, CAA.

This deployment of the initial seven sculptures is planned to be an annual event with more art reefs to be selected and added each year.

Grayt Pineapple by Herring Design Co., is an 8-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a pineapple designed to help small fish thrive.

The mission of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is to advance the arts through leadership, advocacy, funding, programs and education. The vision of the CAA is to make Walton County a creative place in which to live, work and visit.

The South Walton Artificial Reef Association is dedicated to deploying and monitoring publicly permitted living reefs in Walton County’s near shore coastal waters for the benefit, education, and enrichment of residents, visitors, and marine habitat for present and future generations.

Sculptures not shown: Rope Reef Spheres by Evelyn Tickle, Self Portrait by Justin Gaffrey, JYC’s Dream by Kevin Reilly, Propeller in Motion by Marek Anthony.