Underwater art museum opens off NW Florida

“SWARA Skull” by Vince Tatum / Photo: Spring Run Media

It's touted as the country's first permanent underwater art museum, and it's now open in the Gulf of Mexico off Walton County.

The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA).

The first seven sculptures in the museum were lowered into place on June 25th.

  • “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
  • “Anamorphous Octopus” by Allison Wickey

The purpose of the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) is to create art that becomes marine habitat.

SWARA Board President Andy McAlexander dove the UMA right after the sculptures landed on the gulf floor.

McAlexander said, "The intent of the project was proven within an hour of deployment when we could see schools of bait fish swarming the structures, completely validating the entire effort. I have never been prouder to have had the privilege to work with such talented and visionary people in my life. This project has changed my perspective towards art."

The exhibit will also provide enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for residents and visitors.

CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele said, "After nearly two years of planning and fundraising, it was a surreal hour watching the artwork being lowered into the Gulf of Mexico. We have been encouraged by the excitement from and support by our local community and the national and international interest it has received."

The UMA is located .7 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. No ticket or reservation is required. Admission to the UMA is free, however, there is a fee to enter 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.

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