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Cultural Arts Alliance and South Walton Artificial Reef Association Team Up for Underwater Museum of Art

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) have partnered to bring North America’s first permanent underwater sculpture park, The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), to South Walton.

The museum, which will be located .71 Nautical Miles off of Grayton Beach, combines art, education and ecosystems -- three passions of the South Walton community.

“It’s so fresh and creative,” says Andy McAlexander, president of SWARA. “We will be raising awareness of our marine ecosystems through art.”

The Gulf of Mexico’s seafloor is 95 percent barren sand flats – a veritable underwater desert – so creating artificial reefs (or in this case a sculpture museum) provides a source of biological replenishment and a protective marine habitat where one does not exist.

The underwater museum will be an ongoing project where the CAA commissions sculptures from artists and selects up to six works of art, and SWARA deploys the works for permanent display in the Underwater Museum of Art.

The qualifying sculptures have to meet specific criteria since they will be part of the marine environment. They must be constructed from concrete, aluminum or limestone. Before they are deployed into the museum they will be permanently attached to a so-called “grouper box,” a reef that will not only serve as an anchoring base for the sculptures, but also provide additional protective reef for the marine ecosystem.  

Artists can submit up to five works to be considered and more than one can be selected. The deadline to submit a work is Aug. 11.

Once selections are made, each artist chosen will receive a $2,000 stipend (per work) and $500 (per work) to use towards shipping their finished sculpture. The goal is to have the sculptures in place by summer of 2018.

For local gallery owner, artist and CAA board member Allison Wickey, the project represents a unique opportunity for South Walton to expand on its already diverse arts scene, as well as serving as an educational opportunity for school children.

“You’re truly brining people into an idea that is so multi-faceted,” she said. “Going underwater and seeing something like this is so unexpected. Being able to add another dimension into the water is huge.”

To learn more about The Underwater Museum of Art and the Cultural Arts Alliance call (850) 622-5970 or visit their website at www.culturalartsalliance.com/. For more information about the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, visit swarareefs.org/.