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, will join two of South Walton’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.
The 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 percent 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 near-shore 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 first phase of the UMA will include up to six pieces of sculpture. The CAA is calling for local, national and international artists to submit work for consideration for the first installment and permanent exhibition. Sculptures must be created above ground and delivered directly to the deployment area where each will be attached to a grouper box/reef.
The sculptures will then be transported by ship to the gulf and carefully sunk to the floor where they will become a base to which an artificial reef will form, attracting marine life and divers.
Visit www.CulturalArtsAlliance.com for more information on the UMA project and to apply online. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 11, and artwork must be received no later than Sept. 15.
– Melissa Wheeler
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