Founded in 2018, the Underwater Museum of Art united two of South Walton’s best features – the Gulf of Mexico and the arts. The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) partnered with Visit South Walton and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) to create North America’s first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit. The UMA is part of CAA’s Art in Public Spaces Program and strives to achieve SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitats and expanding fishery populations. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alys Foundation, and Visit Florida, the UMA enhances the creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities of the area.
These underwater sculptures provided a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat that otherwise did not exist in the Gulf’s barren sand flats. The artificial reef sits just 0.7 miles off shore from Grayton Beach State Park. Visitors can snorkel around the area, but in order to see the artwork at full-depth, visitors must be certified divers. The coordinates of the central sculpture are N 30*18.754 W 30*09.562, however, boaters are asked to drop anchor further away to avoid damaging the artwork. Emerald Coast Scuba offers private and regularly schedule dives in this area as well as certification classes.
The inaugural undersea installation in 2018 consisted of seven sculptures coming from artists around the world. In 2019, eleven sculptures were added followed by seven more in 2020. Click here to see what’s currently on display. Are you an artist or have a friend that is? Consider submitting artwork to the UMA!
Even if you aren’t an artist yourself, there are plenty of ways to get involved with the UMA. Check out the UMA website to see how and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date with all things UMA!