On June 25th, the much anticipated, first permanent Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) opened in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA)’s Art In Public Spaces Program and was produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA). Seven sculptures became part of the inaugural UMA installation: “Propeller in Motion” by Marek Anthony, “Self-Portrait” by Justin Gaffrey, “The Grayt Pineapple” by Rachel Herring, “JYC’s Dream” by Kevin Reilly, “SWARA Skull” by Vince Tatum, “Concrete Rope Reef Spheres” by Evelyn Tickle and “Anamorphous Octopus” by Allison Wickey. Around 80 onlookers, including many of the artists and project partners, were on site to view the historic deployment. “After nearly two years of planning and fundraising, it was a surreal moment watching the artwork being lowered into the Gulf,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “From the moment Allison Wickey, our board president, brought this idea to the table as a co-project with SWARA, we have been encouraged by the excitement and support by our local community and the national and international interest it has received. It has been a challenging experience and it could not have happened without our partnership with SWARA and contributions from Visit South Walton, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Alys Foundation, Visit Florida and all of the sculpture sponsors who wanted to be a part of this unique project.”
The intent of the project was proven within an hour of deployment when schools of bait fish began swarming the structures, completely validating the entire effort. 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) are 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. Visit UMAFL.org for information about dive shops, tours and obtaining your certification while visiting South Walton. There will also be photos and videos of the sculptures online, which will be updated periodically, in order to document the marine growth on each sculpture.
The 2018 UMA installation is presented by Visit South Walton with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Alys Foundation, Visit Florida, 30A.com, 30A Coastal Dunes Wine Company, BOTE, Bud & Alley’s Restaurant, and O.B. Laurent Construction. Special thanks to both Walter Marine and Galati Yachts for their partnership in the deployment.
Artists interested in submitting artwork for consideration to the 2019 UMA installation can visit UMAFL.org to complete a pre-application.