Underwater Museum of Art

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) in partnership with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) and support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alys Foundation, and Visit Florida will join two of South Walton, Florida’s most beloved attractions – the arts and the Gulf of Mexico – with the introduction of The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit.

Grayton Patch Reef #3 Aerial chartThe 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.

Currently, Gulf coastal waters off Walton County are 95% barren sand flats. Deployment of sculpture as artificial reefs will provide a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat where none exists. The UMA will be deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef project that includes nine nearshore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore in approximately 50-60 feet of water. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated to the CAA for the purpose of a permanent underwater sculpture exhibit.

The CAA and SWARA are proud to reveal the seven sculpture designs selected by jury for permanent exhibition in the first installation of the UMA.

The 2018 Spring/Summer installation will include the following sculpture: “Propeller in Motion” by Marek Anthony, “Self Portrait” by Justin Gaffrey, “The Grayt Pineapple” by Rachel Herring, “JYC’s Dream” by Kevin Reilly in collaboration with students from South Walton Montessori School, “SWARA Skull” by Vince Tatum, “Concrete Rope Reef Spheres” by Evelyn Tickle,  and “Anamorphous Octopus” by Allison Wickey.



JYCDream-K.Reilly-UMA RenderingJYC’s DREAM is a creation by American designer Kevin Reilly as an homage to the “Aqualung,” arguably Jacques Cousteau’s greatest invention, and is a collaborative effort with the South Walton Montessori Academy primary students and their teachers. The sculpture, a larger-than-life diver’s head, is a model of captain Cousteau wearing the original version of his invention. Ascending from the mouthpiece will be a trail of bubbles, many of which will serve as a framework for the students’ individual designs and allow the sculpture to function as fish habitats. “The children of today will become the caretakers of tomorrow,” said Reilly. “It was Cousteau’s dream for all people, especially future generations, to access the underwater world, and it is our hope that the student involvement in this project will help lead them in the direction of Captain Cousteau’s dream. Our incredible underwater world will be left to them.”

Self-Portrait J.Gaffrey UMAStanding eight feet tall, Justin Gaffrey’s “SELF PORTRAIT” is inspired by other recent sculpture the Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. artist has created, however this sculpture will be created from welded stainless steel bar. Gaffrey is internationally known for his primary body of work in heavy acrylic impastos often one to six inches thick, but he enjoys challenging himself in vast mediums and creates free-standing sculptural works and paintings in his local studio. As a self-taught artist, Gaffrey’s work challenges the norms of art, pushing boundaries and constantly changing.

SWARA Skull 2.0 UMASWARA SKULL designer Vince Tatum’s career as an Art Director and Production Designer in the film industry, along with being a NAUI DIVE MASTER, make “the UMA project a diver’s dream.” Standing 8 feet tall, “SWARA Skull” will have a stainless steel jaw, nasal cavity and eye sockets, which will be the shape of Southern Stingrays. The dome of the skull will be cast of clean cement embedded with limestone to attract corals. “For a diver, one of the most exciting things to do is shine your dive-light in a dark hole and see who is staring back at you,” said Tatum. “A large skull covered in coral and marine growth, teeming with life, makes for one hell of a photo-op.”

Evelyn Tickle Concrete Tangle UMAEvelyn Tickle’s CONCRETE ROPE REEF SPHERES are made using a patent pending clean concrete formula developed by the artist to match the chemical makeup of an oyster shell, specifically for underwater reef use. The rope spheres will have artificial concrete oyster shells attached to the concrete rope, and the nooks and crannies in both the spheres and the shells will provide places for embryonic oysters and other creatures to attach. Over time the interstitial spaces will be filled in with living oysters and other marine species. Tickle has invented hundreds of concrete formulas to enhance color, structure, sustainability and most recently, for underwater use to enhance marine habitat.


Grayt Pineapple UMATHE GRAYT PINEAPPLE by Florida-based artist Rachel Herring is an 8-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a pineapple designed to help small fish thrive. The inside of the piece will remain hollow, and the outline of the leaves on top will look like the sun when viewed from above. Herring has painted most of her life but has recently begun working with discarded wood and other found pieces. “What better way to bring new wildlife to the area than with a pineapple, the symbol of welcoming and hospitality,” said Herring, who has paired her love of working with her hands with mastering new tools and techniques.




Propeller In Motion Tech Images UMAPROPELLER IN MOTION is a design by artist and contemporary custom furniture creator Marek Anthony who resides in Dallas, Texas via Madrid, Spain. “Propeller in Motion” is an abstraction of a moving ship’s propeller being swallowed into the sea bed. The sculpture is designed to be permeable to light, sea water and living things and will be constructed from individual propeller-shaped concrete pieces mounted on a stainless steel central tubular support, capped with a stainless steel cone.  “My work is as much about the mass of the material as it is about the space between it,” said Anthony. “I enjoy site specific projects and manipulating the viewer’s experience by relating the sculpture and the environment. Often the sculpture will frame aspects from the environment giving the viewer an added dimension to explore.”


Octopus by Allison WickeyANAMORPHOUS OCTOPUS by artist and 2011 South Walton Artist of the Year Allison Wickey will be comprised of 16 metal bars, each approximately one-half inch thick and 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide. “As soon as this project became a possibility, my mind went to anamorphosis, which is a distorted projection or perspective requiring the viewer to use special devices or occupy a specific vantage point to reconstitute the image,” said Wickey. “You can find beauty in any object or situation, any way you look at it.” A cultural fixture on 30A for eight years, Allison is known for her rustic depictions of gulf coast landscapes inspired by the thought of the area before any man-made structures were built.

Contact CAA Executive Director, Jennifer Steele, if you’re interested in Sponsorship opportunities. You can also donate now to help ensure this project’s success. For more information about UMA, visit umafl.org.