Did you know that South Walton is home to the nation’s first permanent underwater museum? In 2018, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) partnered with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) to create North America’s first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit, the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA). In June of 2022, nine new sculptures were added to the exhibit which is located off the coast of the Grayton Beach State Park in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 2022 installation includes the following pieces of sculpture: Currents and Tafoni by Joe Adams (Ventura, CA), Pirate Shipwreck by Sean Coffey (Pittsburgh, PA), Bloom Baby Bloom by Brit Deslonde (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), The Seed and The Sea by Davide Galbiati (Valreas, France), Fibonacci Conchousness by Anthony Heinz May (Eugene, OR), New Homes by Janetta Napp (Honolulu, HI), Arc of Nexus by Tina Piracci (Richmond, CA), We All Live Here by Marisol Rendón (San Diego, CA), and Common Chord by Vince Tatum (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).
The sculptures were deployed with support from Visit South Walton, Walter Marine/The Reefmaker, and the Florida Department of State Division of Arts and Culture using 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. The installation joins the 17 sculptures previously deployed on a one-acre permit patch of seabed making the total number of sculptures now 34. The UMA plans to add new sculptures annually.
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. Visitors can access the museum directly through Grayton Beach State Park to snorkel around the area, but in order to see the artwork at full-depth, visitors must be certified divers. Dive30A in Grayton Beach is able to shuttle divers directly from Grayton Beach to the UMA site.