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Six New Sculptures Added to Nation's First Underwater Museum of Art

It may have been a cloudy and rainy day, but the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) deployment team was all smiles last week as six new sculptures were added to the nation’s first permanent Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton, Fla.


Named by TIME Magazine as one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” the UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA)’s Art In Public Spaces Program and is produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA). The purpose of the UMA is to create art that becomes marine habitat, expanding fishery populations and providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton.


The 2023 installation includes the following pieces of sculpture: Quantum Reef by Chris Chubb (Tallahassee, FL), Space Nest by Frank Henderson (Evanston, IL), Welcome Home by Zachery Long (Oklahoma City, OK), Cetacean Remains by Pat Mclain (Stone Mountain, GA), One Tree by Ann Moeller Steverson (Huntsville, AL) Opus by Allison Wickey (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).


On July 13th, more than 75 onlookers, including several of the artists and project partners, were on site to view the historic deployment. New this year, the team was able to livestream all of the action to the UMA website and is still available for viewing at umafl.org.


With support from Visit South Walton, Walter Marine/The Reefmaker, and Florida Cultural Affairs, the sculptures were 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 58 feet of water. This installation joins the 34 sculptures previously deployed on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum to a total of 40 sculptures. The UMA patch will continue to be filled with several new sculptures annually.


Individual sculptures are sponsored by the Ellis Family, Hilton Sandestin Golf Beach Resort & Spa, Merrill Lynch - Brown, Burns and Associates, Morning Star Foundation, and the St. Joe Community Foundation.


“The UMA installation is always awe inspiring and this year was no exception. The collaboration amongst all of the groups and individuals who make the deployment happen annually is incredible, '' said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “As the UMA continues to expand, the CAA is grateful for the excitement and dedication of the artists, fabricators, deployment team and partners. We are so proud to work alongside project co-founders Allison Wickey and SWARA to build this unique environment for creativity and education.”


“This year's UMA deployment was one for the books,” says SWARA President and Dive30A owner Walt Hartley. “These six new sculptures will truly enrich the personality and character of the Museum. It was also our very first time livestreaming the full deployment online so folks all around the world were able to watch! 'Cetacean Remains' is definitely going to become a diver's favorite with its fantastic swim-through. Fish began to congregate around all the sculptures almost immediately. 'If you build it, they will come!' With 40 total sculptures now, the Underwater Museum of Art is really coming into its own, and it's been nothing short of inspirational to watch it grow over the years. None of this would be possible without the continued support from our community, the WalterMarine/Reefmaker Crew, and our collaborative partnership with the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. Big thanks to all involved! We can't wait to do it again next year!"


We are also thrilled to share that the UMA was recently selected by the 2023 CODAawards jury as a Top 100 finalist representing the best design and art projects! This year 411 projects from around the world were submitted for consideration to the awards, which recognize design projects demonstrating the most successful integration of commissioned art into an interior, architectural or public space.


Now it's time to cast your vote: the top 2 projects receiving the most votes will be crowned People's Choice winners. Voting is simple and easy. Just click the "Vote" button below the "Underwater Museum of Art" project on the official voting site. You are only allowed to vote once per project. Final tallies for votes will be audited at the close of the competition and CODAworx reserves the right to take action in the event of inappropriate voting.


Cast your vote at codaworx.com/codaawards/2023-top-100/! The deadline for votes is Monday, July 31 at 11:59 pm, central time (GMT -5:00).


Admission to the UMA is free, however, the site is only accessible in person as a dive location. Divers who wish to visit the site can take a dive boat .93 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The coordinates for the new Super Reef UMA entrance are N 30°18.754 / W 86°09.521. Out of respect for the art, boaters are asked to anchor on or near the Super Reef Anchor Point to protect the sculptures from unintended contact or damage.


Visit UMAFL.org for more information about dive tours. Photos and videos of the sculptures will continue to be updated online periodically to document the marine growth on each sculpture.


Both SWARA and the CAA wish to extend special thanks to our deployment partner, Walter Marine, for their dedication to excellence in helping bring our vision into reality.


Artists interested in submitting artwork for consideration to the 2024 UMA installation can visit UMAFL.org to sign up for notification of an Artist Call announcement later this Fall.


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