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Underwater Museum of Art

A partnership between Visit South Walton, the Cultural Arts Alliance and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association

 

I Found It! by Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon

 

Located less than a mile from the sugar-white sand of Grayton Beach State Park lies an underwater sculpture park, The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA).

The museum, which came to life through a partnership between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) and Visit South Walton, combines art, education and ecosystems – three passions of the South Walton community – in a truly unique way, creating a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitats where one does not exist.

Divers who wish to visit the site can take a dive boat .7 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The coordinates for the center sculpture (SWARA Skull) are Latitude N30 18 45.262 Longitude W086 09 33.722.

Want to book an excursion? Let the team at Dive 30A help you explore this unique sculpture park. Their shop is located in the heart of Grayton Beach, which means you are just a short jaunt from the beach. CLICK HERE to book your trip.

In addition to providing a site for SCUBA diving that will be unique to the world, the sculptures are designed and selected with their suitability as marine habitat in mind, so even in the absence of SCUBA divers, the Underwater Museum of Art is certain to have many visitors, including schools of baitfish, grouper, sea turtles and dolphins!

Annually, the CAA and SWARA will select a variety of works – from both local, regional and national artists – for deployment as part of the Underwater Museum of Art. Those who explore the museum will find sculptures ranging from an 8-foot tall deer and a giant pineapple to a massive skull and an octopus.

 

2024 Deployment

A total of nine sculpture designs have been selected for inclusion in the 2024 Underwater Museum of Art Deployment. Learn more about the artists and their sculptures below. 

THE LOST KINGDOM OF ARTEMIS is a limestone, concrete and metal sculpture by artist Denna Ameen. Lost Kingdom of Artemis draws inspiration from the architectural styles of Antoni Gaudí and the surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico. This sculpture, reminiscent of an ancient Atlantean ruin, aims to evoke a sense of mystique and wonder in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. The sculpture takes the form of a submerged Greco-Roman building, appearing as a once-grand structure now gracefully reclaimed by the sea. Its design features three distinct entrances on different sides, with an open ceiling to allow sea creatures, particularly sea turtles, easy access in and out of the sculpture. Leading up to the open ceiling is a staircase, symbolizing upward mobility and the hope for ecological improvements. This aesthetic choice as well as the marine life's future development on the piece prompts reflection on the passage of time and the ever-changing nature of our planet's ecosystems. Ameen believes this sculpture marries artistic expression with ecological stewardship. By crafting an inviting and functional underwater habitat inspired by ancient architecture, it not only celebrates the beauty and diversity of animal creation but also contributes to the ongoing revitalization of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem. 



MERMAID. SIREN. GALATEA. (Working title) artist Raine Bledsoe is based in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Her work has dealt with the idea of 'vessel' for a long time. The boat sculpture and the figurative sculpture are both vessels of the psyche. Currently, she is working on a series of sculptures based on the female figure. Although they began as a 'universal' self portrait, these figures are somewhat androgynous. There is a feminine force that is present in both men and women referred to as the Anima. They are nature goddesses leading us back to a time when we were one with nature. Bledsoe’s vision for the underwater museum is of a water goddess or nymph. She lives in the reef and her skin is made of water drops, open for sea creatures to swim and play in. She is born of the reef and nurturer of all the teeming sea life there.



DEEP SEA THREE Matthew Gemmell and David Showalter are Baltimore-based artists who have worked together on various sculpture projects over the last 20 years. Their approach to this project was to consider diatoms as inspiration for creating an engaging underwater sculpture. These single celled organisms that inhabit our oceans are invisible to the naked eye, but a closer look at these foundational creatures in our marine ecosystem reveals a vast variety of geometric beauty. The shapes formed by the diatom’s silica walls have intricate patterns resembling those found in classic Platonic solids. It is the artist’s aim to represent an echo of these geometric patterns that occur in different variations on mathematical themes. They chose to do this by using repeating Platonic solids. These forms naturally lend themselves to sculpture in addition to providing various surfaces for marine life to take hold. Over time the Platonic solid sculpture will take on a life of its own creating a habitat for many of the marine creatures it represents while also providing shelter for larger creatures that depend on these quintessential microscopic organisms. By combining biology, mathematics, art, ocean conservation, and inspiration from the tiny diatom they aim to create a unique engaging addition to the Underwater Museum of Art collection for divers and marine life to enjoy.



SEA HOW WE FLOW artist Elise Gilbert is interested in posing a question within the viewer's understanding that draws on the philosophical proposition of naturalism. One of the key questions this concept evokes is whether nature possesses inherent perfection. Some may find perfection in nature's complexity and balance, while others may argue that nature is chaotic, imperfect, or harsh in its manifestations. When the viewer experiences this piece, they are confronted with an image of two hands in reflection—the yogic hand symbol for the flow of wisdom during self-reflection. It is a gesture that encourages the practitioner to turn their attention inward, seeking self-realization and deeper understanding. The perceiver may experience the image of the hands with a sense of harmony and peace. As time progresses, the underwater piece will slowly undergo changes in its appearance, gradually becoming more asymmetrical as it is overtaken by sea-life. The question then arises: as the form changes, does its perfection also change? Or does it become more harmonious and perfect in the realm of nature?



Readers may recognize AMONG THE ANEMONE artist Frank Henderson from his recent Space Nest sculpture deployed in 2023 as part of the UMA’s fifth installation. Henderson’s newest submission, Among the Anemone, is a fun interactive sculpture that allows divers to experience the perspective of a clown fish swimming among the tentacles of the beautiful anemone. This sculpture is designed to have divers swimming in and around it, giving them a fun and immersed experience. There is also a clearing in the middle of the sculpture where a diver can feel completely enveloped by the anemone. Among the Anemone is also a great sculpture for sea life to find its home. The many tentacles of the sculpture allow plenty of spaces for animals to create their homes. Sea Anemones are predatory creatures. Part of the fun of this sculpture is for the viewer to feel like they are at the scale of the tiny fish that sea Anemones prey on.



Missouri-based artist Nathan Hoffman is creating POSEIDON'S THRONE. Poseidon’s Throne sits empty. The ruler and representative of the rawness and power of the ocean, is gone. Where to? That we do not know, but who will take his place? Hoffman wants the viewer of this sizable throne to imagine themselves taking the seat. It is a huge burden, but one that we all must take up if we are to save the ocean from ourselves. We have the power to do it, just as we had the power to destroy it. The throne will act as a symbol of the power we all yield, if we so choose to take it. The throne will also have many areas for fish and ocean life to inhabit and move throughout it, symbolizing that we must work together in order for our worlds to coexist. Ocean life inhabiting the piece also symbolizes that when given the right opportunities there is hope for renewal and the ocean can flourish once again.



When building the concept for her piece BUBBLY BARNACLES, artist Donna Conklin King  thought about the duality of decay and resiliency and found inspiration in barnacles. Barnacles stick to the undersides of vessels, to other sea life, to each other, and to pretty much anything they come in contact with. While they are an annoyance, the beauty in their destruction is also their strength - the glue! They secrete a fast-curing cement that is among the most powerful natural glue known. The glue is so strong that researchers are trying to determine how it can be used commercially. The piece is titled Bubbly Barnacles because these barnacles are round like a bubble and hollow to allow space for sea creatures to make a living reef. Rather than being destructive or unwanted, these barnacles are welcome and inviting. The tallest central component consists of three large oblong asymmetrical forms that have openings you can see through. Fish can swim through them, and Divers can look through them. Divers can also shine a light into any of the 6+ barnacles at the base of the sculpture, and hopefully find some delightful surprises living or hiding inside.



SUNKEN SPORES by artist Ashley Rivers is a piece based off a few ceramic mushrooms she created in the past. Mushrooms are vital to ecosystems around the world. Through mycelium, mushrooms help other plants share nutrients and communicate through chemical signals. Created mostly of concrete, with metal mesh stabilizers, the piece will stand roughly 6' 2" tall. The shapes within the piece will allow the perfect surfaces for future corals and anemones to grow, offering new habitats, feeding, spawning, and nursery grounds for over 1 million aquatic species- a perfect analogy to how real mushrooms help other plants share nutrients above ground.

RING MY BELL is an interactive sculpture based on the historical form of an offshore bell buoy from artist Bradley Touchstone. Visitors will be able to ring the bell inside the tower using a striker that is permanently attached to the structure. The primary material for the piece is solid steel bar stock and 1/4" plate. The four sides of the tower include cutout illustrations of sea life.

 

2023 Deployment

A total of seven sculpture designs have been selected for inclusion in the 2023 Underwater Museum of Art Deployment. Learn more about the artists and their sculptures below. 

QUANTUM REEF by Tallahassee, Florida architect Chris Chubb occupies 100 square feet of the 617,500 square MILE Gulf of Mexico. Relatively, this is similar to the infinitesimal size of a single atom compared to a dinner plate. The Quantum Reef invites the viewer to leave the human scale and enter the sub-atomic scale. Analogous to a dynamic atom, Quantum Reef is animated by schools of fish darting through the aluminum ‘shell’ and swirling about the limestone ‘nucleus’. The sculpture is intended to provide needed marine habitat, inspire multidisciplinary work and promote educational initiatives in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).

 

 

SPACE NEST designer Frank Henderson is based in Evanston, Ill. The sculpture is inspired by the beautiful homes of Diatoms, which often use circle packing to generate an ornate organic geometry from silicate. The nest is created by circle-packing various sizes of circles into a dome shape. The resulting form is incredibly strong and resilient while using minimal materials to create maximum size and usable negative space. The title “Space Nest” refers to two things - the modern myth that diatoms are in-fact aliens using their silicate space ships to venture to new lands in the process of panspermia, and the sense of space and openness that this geometric form gives to the nest itself. Its use of negative space adds to a sense of mystery and opportunity that the replicated silicate form provides. Marine life can swim through and around it as part of the artificial reef, to build and grow their own homes in. It serves as a cage of protection from predatory marine life, while offering areas to move through and explore for other marine life and divers visiting the UMA.

 


WELCOME HOME by Illinois-based artist Zachery Long is a gesture we are all familiar with and can relate to. The sculpture has a two-fold meaning. Creating these three UMA letters is a thank you to the people making this new habitat a reality. “The Underwater Museum of Art is more important than we all know,” said Long. “It is a positive movement in the right direction leading by example to create net positives for our oceans.” Secondly, Welcome Home is a much-needed greeting sign for fish looking to rehome from their previously barren sand flats. Nothing says home like giant barrel sponges, corals, and a welcoming UMA sculpture. Each concrete letter will be evenly spaced to provide passageways for water current and sea life. The concrete barrel sponges are various sizes to provide different types of shelter and living spaces to the differing species. 

 


MADAM NATURE artist Andrew Luy has maintained multiple saltwater aquariums, bred seahorses and propagated corals through fragmentation, and has grown phytoplankton, among other ocean life maintenance. With this project he not only wants to create an aesthetically pleasing sculpture, but he also looks to create a sustainable habitat for sea life and corals. The top half will have crevices and holes similar to brain coral skeletons to allow for naturally occurring coral population and for coral plugs to be inserted to allow for any future propagation endeavors. The inner core of the globe will have a network of tunnels & holes, made of limestone and concrete to encourage invertebrates, fish, and other sea life to shelter. He designed the woman’s hair as an homage to the weedy sea dragon along with open areas to provide protective zones and to house long tip and other indigenous anemones to simulate flowing hair.

 


Atlanta-based artist Pat Mclain’s hope for the CETACEAN REMAINS sculpture is for it to be an extremely interactive experience for the diver giving them the ability to swim through the piece like a tunnel. When he first heard of the museum his mind thought of something that would naturally be found on the ocean floor, something that seemed prehistoric but was supposed to be there. Doing a simple segment of the body like the rib cage is a great standalone piece but could also grow with additions to the skeleton frame over time.

 


ONE TREE is an  8-foot-tall by 9-foot- wide by 9-foot-deep concrete sculpture depicting two trees grown together over time with their roots entwined from artist Ann Moeller Steverson. The fantastical branches of the trees feature four seasons, from blossoms to fruit, falling leaves, and the adornment of icicles. From the right angle, viewers would see the suggestion of a heart shape between the trunk and branches. The roots, in the style of a banyan tree, would have deep grooves that provide a perfect breeding ground/habitat for fish, algae, coral, and other marine life. The canopy of the trees would also provide an additional surface area, attraction, and shelter. The design of "One Tree" is an evolution of a painted commission that captured the hearts and imaginations of romantics worldwide and extends its story to the underwater world of Grayton Beach State Park. The painting was a gift from a husband to his wife, inspired by this excerpt from Captain Corelli's Mandolin:

"Love is a temporary madness.
It erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides, you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
....
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
And when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches
They find that they are one tree and not two.”

The piece offers a unique enchanting destination for couples who wish to have their underwater nuptials beside it or just meet up under its branches

 


OPUS is the second sculpture to be installed at the UMA for Santa Rosa Beach, Florida-based artist Allison Wickey who is also a founding partner of the project. The octopus is the ultimate mystery, embodying all that the sea symbolizes in one creature. Not only are they intriguing, but they are also elegant and mesmerizing to watch. They are known to 'play' with other species, walk on two legs and befriend humans. Although they have been portrayed as scary or dangerous they are actually peacemakers in her opinion. They seem to have a silly sense of humor while also being highly intelligent and can change itself via color or shape to work its way out of bad situations. The combination of beauty, brilliance and resilience is an enviable trait and the octopus has it all. Allison thinks the octopus is a good symbol for the times, as we learn to work our way out of new and strange issues in current society while retaining a sense of humor.

 

2022 Deployment

A total of 10 sculpture designs have been selected for inclusion in the 2022 Underwater Museum of Art Deployment. Learn more about the artists and their sculptures below. 

 

CURRENTS AND TAFONI is a limestone sculpture by artist Joe Adams. Adams will create a vortex of shell-like structural anatomy, whirling currents providing curve-linear "shelves' for coral to live abundantly with three hole spaces between allowing fish to flow through it. The sculpture will be shaped with diamond saws, grinders, air hammers and hand worked with chisels and files. The "detail" will be in the larger sense of how the curves and spaces interact with each other allowing for future coral expansion, like the 12 visible shallow embossed shapes mimicking "Tafoni" erosion to propagate coral reproduction. There is a sense of playful dance in this concept, providing a harmony with water currents and the movement of marine life.

 

PIRATE SHIPWRECK designer Sean Coffey is based in Pittsburgh, PA. His concept is based on the visual aesthetics of a sunken pirate ship. With years of ultra-high-performance concrete design experience coupled with more than a decade of building custom metal sculptures and structures, he will create a sunken pirate ship from 1/2" thick aluminum angled to resemble wood creating the framework of a sunken ship buried in the sand. As sand and coral eventually consume the sculpture,  it will resemble a ship that was lost long before its placement. The piece will be large enough to allow fish and other sea creatures to utilize the structure as a habitat also allowing divers to interact safely.

BLOOM BABY BLOOM Florida-based artist Brit Deslonde’s inspiration was heavily influenced by the textures, forms and flows that she holds dear when thinking about her diving experiences. She wanted to create a piece that felt positive and reflected the hope that artificial reefs and reef restoration bring, while still providing a welcoming home to fish and flora that may find their home in her artwork. The "off balance'" yet elevated structure to her sculpture signifies strength where we can find it, (albeit from where we don't expect it at times ) and the uplifting nature of those who put forth the effort to find that strength, especially for causes that may not give personal gain such as this. 

 

 

THE SEED AND THE SEA artist Davide Galbiati’s goal at the UMA is to educate the public on the fragility of marine ecosystems and the importance of preserving the balance of marine life with all of its members. To succeed in his message, he relies on the metaphor of the Seed in Nature. The Seed... nothing is more important in Nature. It represents the matrix that will make it possible to have thousands of trees. For Nature what matters is the seed. It conquered territory, redraws landscapes, transformed biodiversity, got involved in fragile interstices, and was reborn after destruction. The information that is contained within it must be transmitted. This is the seed's mission: to transmit. The surface of the statue will allow the development of new plant and animal organisms; the sculpture itself will be transformed into a Seed, into a matrix that will allow a new Life and which will have to be protected.

 

FIBONACCI CONCHOUSNESS artist Anthony Heinz May is known from his recent Roost and Puddle sculpture addition to the Watersound® Monarch Art Trail. His concrete conch shell design for the UMA reflects site-responsive specificity of location of UMA and existentialism between museum-goers, natural/human-built environments and precarious human-nature relationships. The conch will lay on its side with flanges extending from a welded frame substrate of steel rod/wire mesh underneath layered concrete. This tested true prototype holds the highest structural integrity and best suitable for the natural underwater environment as well transport/install methodologies. Conch shells can be found along Florida Panhandle beaches while combing sands near the water's edge, however in small sizes and typically commandeered by rogue hermit crabs. The increasing scarcity of conches housing sea snails and mollusks from years of harvesting Florida waters has made them illegal for anyone to remove. Several narratives of the conch include sacred Native American histories, musical instrumentation, used in cultural recipes, as well exemplified in mathematical formula established by Leonardo Fibonacci in the 13th century. Architecture uses ratios in designs elucidated by the conch as a form of pure aesthetic. In reclamation by algal plant life and for organisms to anchor, the intentions of his proposal continue expansion of his public art portfolio which include concepts involving nature, humans and technology. Reinvestment of the organic existence of large conch shells once omnipresent in these tropical waters pay homage to nature, natural cycles and patterns. Remnants of conch shells wash ashore along the Northwestern Panhandle of Florida as archeological fragments depicting severity of history in travel to where it lay in the sand. The perilous trip of conch shells, affected by storms, laws of entropy and human intervention in natural environments, is reversed in his sculpture which depicts the conch shell as a complete and unbroken whole.

Hawaii-based artist Janetta Napp is creating an abstract cement sculpture, NEW HOMES, that alludes to a row of cone snail egg casings reimagined as three vertical ovule panels. In total, the three panels together will weigh approximately 2090 lbs and will be 36” long. This piece is titled New Homes because each panel will have identical 6” diameter holes and randomly scattered .5” diameter indentations approximately .5” deep. One hole will line up across all three panels so that if a diver is facing the front of the sculpture, they could see through to the other side. These holes and indentations will create resting places and encourage marine life to settle. Each panel will be set approximately 1’ apart and will alternate front and back to provide an asymmetrical appearance like a row of cone snail egg casings. To create this artwork, Napp will use clean concrete cement reinforced with rebar and stainless-steel mesh connected with stainless steel ties to create a rough grid within, reinforcing each panel. Her fascination with the aquatic world has led her to volunteer for marine research projects with the University of Hawai’i sparking her interest in the combination of science and art. By creating an artificial reef structure, she can contribute to the conservation of coral reefs. 

 

From the depths of our reefs, to the soft tissue in our heads controlling our every move, the reaction-diffusion pattern expressed in ARC OF NEXUS from artist Tina Piracci exemplifies the synergy and wonder of the macrocosm we live in today. Enchanted by the uncanny echo of these patterns across various scales, the artist aims to illuminate similar algorithmic arrangements through the intersection of science and art. Inspired by Vitruvius and DaVinci, the divine connections found in nature influence Piracci to create and research within the context of the natural world. This imaginary portal acts as a passage between realms inviting the viewer to investigate and understand the world around them. The process of this work included drawing this diffusion pattern from personal photos gathered on diving trips around various coasts in Florida, some of which were restoration trips with the Coral Restoration Foundation. With a sister sculpture located in St. Petersburg, this doorway acts as the underwater portal to its counterpart. Doors and portals are often a theme in Piracci’s work as they allude to “another realm.” Through dreams and weird coincidences, the artist finds this notion of a portal intriguing as a threshold between worlds. Inspired by her passed brother who visits her in dreams through misplaced mysterious doorways, these works provide the artist with the hope of another world. Through exploring the patterns found in nature, Piracci emphasizes the magical nature of the world as we can find the same structures in our eye’s irises out in the cosmos. Connections like these bring life to the artist as she knows she must protect nature as it is the one thing she holds sacred.

WE ALL LIVE HERE artist Marisol Rendón believes being underwater changes our experience of gravity and time. It makes us aware of our breath. We are acutely aware we are visitors to another world bound by very different rules. This change of perspective, and the mindfulness it helps to generate is a main ingredient in experiencing art within UMA, and is the foundation for fantasy, interspecies empathy, and activism. We All Live Here… proposes a further change of perspective as we peer in through the open portals of a submerged submarine and the fish that will find refuge within its form peer back out at us. We All Live Here… will echo the playful and ever recognizable silhouette of the Beatles Yellow Submarine. Its round volumetric form constructed of stainless steel and clean concrete mortar invites us to let our imaginations wander into a fantasy realm where ocean animals come to visit us in their own “submarine,” or, where unlikely heroes battle the injustices of uncaring Blue Meanies. Physically the form of the submarine will be hollow with special attention paid to proper turtle ingress and egress points by strategically “removing” panels from the hull. As to keep the submarine playful and not feel as though it has been wrecked at the bottom of the ocean the piece will be elevated above the mounting plinth on a series of organic forms that mimic large bubbles. Further interactive possibilities will be explored through some of the faux mechanical details of the vessel, like the 4 periscopes, propeller, portholes and such. It is Rendón’s hope that as that catchy refrain “We all live in a yellow submarine…” plays in visitors' heads they remember the creatures they saw that day sharing space within that vessel.

 

 

MOBIFISH-2021 will be created by artist Mathias Souverbie. The moment an object moves, it attracts attention and the bet is won. The sculpture is a giant concrete fish that moves in the sea current like a weather vane. Thus the constraints intrinsic to the force of sea currents are managed in a completely simple and yet extraordinary way. The aim of such a play is above all to be striking and strong. And how can you be closer to the marine universe than by creating a fish?



The Gulf of Mexico and live music are two common chords that bring people together on 30A according to artist Vince Tatum. His sculpture, COMMON CHORD, combines these two local loves by joining music with nature in perfect harmony. The sculpture is a celebration of the natural beauty that surrounds us all and brings us together. Whether it’s gathering on the beach with Osprey soaring overhead, playing in the Gulf while stingrays glide below, or dancing like nobody’s watching while the band plays into the night. The natural beauty of it all, brings us together. It’s the Common Chord. The sculpture will be a beneficial addition to UMA as it is designed to be a thriving marine habitat that will add visual interest for divers. The hollow stingrays and sound hole features of the guitar will make cozy coral-nooks for creatures to take up residence. The body of the sculpture will encourage coral growth with an ample clean cement surface and quickly become its own marine ecosystem.

 

 

2021 Deployment

A total of seven sculptures have been selected for inclusion in the 2021 Underwater Museum of Art Deployment. Learn more about the artists and their sculptures below.

BEE GRAYT is inspired by artist Katie Witherspoon’s best friend who is a 3rd generation beekeeper based in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Through her love of apiary knowledge, Katie also became more and more interested in the role that bees actually have in our ecological cycle. The artist owns an online plant shop called ‘Lil Plant Shop’ and has a love and passion for all things nature. The idea for BEE GRAYT came to her while deep in thought walking the beaches of SoWal. She became obsessed with the image in her mind and had to let the vision escape so it can become a reality for others to enjoy. She has a story to create and tell through a sculpture designed to bring education and knowledge to one of the earth’s most important pollinators and potentially endangered animals, the Bee. With the loss of bees comes the loss of many plants. “Bee Grayt” is comprised of seventeen hexagons making the symbol of a honeycomb. The honeycomb is symbolic for strength, community, and peace. Her hope is that this modern image will remind us to stay connected, and keep thirsting for knowledge and understanding of how to keep these complex and intricate relationships sustainable between humans and animals.

BUILDING BLOCKS is the realization of a concept artist Zachary Long had about a year ago. He wanted to build a metal sculpture that would become the building blocks for new life to take place. He imagined a beautiful stainless structure that was bold, strong, and growing yet delicately balanced and struggling to cling to life. Zachary could see many changing angles and spaces allowing colorful sea life to be displayed and housed against the large blocks (which seem very small on an oceanic scale). These delicately balanced blocks are a reminder that life is fragile but that with some attention and time some of the most fragile and important organisms on our planet can thrive. To create any reason whatsoever to get people to care, become interested, and invested in our incredibly diverse and amazing underwater neighbors. This piece of art will be coming from Oklahoma City in the middle of our country. Even those who do not have an ocean in their backyard can make changes and spread awareness. Zachary hopes the selection of this piece will bring up discussions in middle America where people feel more disconnected from the problems facing our oceans. He wants to show others you can be part of a solution if you get creative with what you have, no matter where you live.

DAWN DANCERS designer Shohini Gosh is a Denver-based artist originally from New Delhi, India. “Dawn Dancers” is a sculpture of two seahorses doing a dance. Seahorses are a flagship species, charismatic symbols of the coral reefs, estuaries and seaweed coastlines. The presence of Seahorses indicates the health of a reef system. Dawn Dancers is a silhouette of two seahorses doing the hypnotically romantic mating dance, looking to creating a home at the Walton beach reef forever. My stenciled silhouette sculpture allows the underwater tides and sea life to move through the design and gives ample space for the corals and seagrass to grow on it without hiding the shape. This design will evolve into a fascinating sculpture of seahorses with a living and growing surface of coral on them.

ECO-BUG by Florida-based artist Priscilla D’Brito allows her to introduce the “Eco-Bug,” the beginning of a new series of aquatic insects that will venture the underwater world. UMA would be the first to have the “Eco-Bug” as this concept design will be spread throughout the world. The “Eco-Bug” can be accompanied by creative exotic plant sculptures as they journey the bottom of the ocean creating colonies. These insects will be magnified and accentuated to overtake the underwater world as it will contribute to be the home to diverse marine life. Their many limbs and robust segmented bodies will provide a sturdy base for proper installation and for the extensive function to foster marine life and coral growth throughout their bodies. 

FROM THE DEPTHS by artist Kirk Seese evokes a childhood wonder about the mythical creatures that live in the depths of the sea. The concrete sculpture portrays a large stylized fish, something you might see as an illustration on a map to warn sailors about the treacherous waters ahead. With its mouth open, it offers a wide cave for smaller fish to hide in and has a 36″ diameter turtle escape hole towards the back. The artist poses these questions…will it seem too lifelike for the real fish to trust it? Will they swim in its mouth once they realize it’s not a threat? Will the sight of it scare the medium and large fish away, leaving the smaller ones in its mouth protected? Only time will tell.

Artist Jonathan Burger will construct an eight-foot-tall mask form looking upwards towards the light filtering down through the water as the form for his sculpture, HOPE. The piece will only depict the front of the face, with a rough edge along the sides, leading down into a round neck form. Inspired by the broken forms of Greek and Roman sculptures, and by the work of Igor Mitoraj, the concept for this work deals with climate change, rising sea levels and the need for humanity to work together to solve these issues. As climate change affects our planet and causes sea levels to rise, many people who have previously lived on dry land above the water will find themselves flooded, much like the face of the sculpture. But this outcome is not entirely ensured, and can be slowed and hopefully prevented by the actions of our governments, corporations, and personal behaviors. The face looks up towards the light of the sun filtering down through the water in a symbol of this hope, that will we realize the scope of our actions and work to prevent such outcomes.

Husband and wife team, design duo, and dive buddies Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendón will co-create THREE WISHES. When we dive we are experiencing magic, the magic of being weightless, of traveling in a foreign environment, of shedding all but the most essential of concerns. For us, every beam of light, every stone, animals large and small seem imbibed with magic and we are lucky to experience it. “Three Wishes” is about that magic and the search for it. Bringing together the desert-like environment at the UMA site, a sublime sense of wonder derived from a change of perspective and scale, and the underlying search for magic and treasure wrapped up in each foray under the waves, we propose the construction of a giant scale genie’s lamp. Geometrically constructed from stainless steel rod in a 3D wire form format the surface of the lamp will be clean concrete. The imposing form of this lamp will strike a strong silhouette, at once at home within the shifting sands of Grayton Beach seafloor and strangely out of place surrounded by ocean life. The surface of the lamp will feature high relief geometric textures and indentions adding surface area and “nooks” for sea creatures to reside, the natural overhang of the lamp’s form provides structure and shelter for marine life. This artwork is not however intended simply for marine life to interact with, it comes to life with the addition of a foreign element, divers and the air we carry with us. Low on the belly of the lamp will be a few small ports below which a diver, posing for a picture pretending to rub the lamp, can purge air from their octopus regulator, and that air will enter the lamp and be carried to the spout of the lamp where it emerges like a genie to grant us wishes and fill our lives with magic.

 

CLICK HERE to see a collection of images showcasing the new sculptures resting on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. 

 

2019 Deployment

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) selected 12 sculptures to be included as part of the Underwater Museum of Arts (UMA) second deployment. The Summer 2019 installation included the following sculptures:

BUTTERY, will be a twelve-foot replica of one of Alys Beach's iconic butteries, which flank the town’s Hwy. 30A entrances, anchoring the beautiful town while welcoming its visitors. The butteries also house sixteen different murals depicting the history and heritage of the local area. Buttery will be fabricated by the Alys Beach construction team and sponsored by The Alys Foundation. *Still to be deployed

TO REPLENISH WITH WATER is a design by Brazilian artist and marine researcher Beatriz Chachamovits. This sculptural piece approaches the theme of ocean degradation through the concept of coral bleaching. Like most of the artist’s interactive pieces, To Replenish with Water deals with the ephemeral state of the work and its forever changing quality, much like the ocean itself. Reversing the fate of this bleached piece to, in time, a ravishing coral colony is a powerful message in the battle against climate change. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

WAVE! is a creation courtesy of American artist Benjamin Mefford. Benjamin is an interdisciplinary artist with a focus on sculpture. The sculpture, a larger-than-life hand, will be constructed to facilitate coral growth utilizing Kansas fencepost limestone columns to create the bulk of the sculpture. These repurposed columns are relics from early settlers who split each block using rudimentary techniques.

George Sabra’s EL PLASTICO replicates a plastic bottle on a massive scale constructed of environmentally cast concrete. This representation of something that generally harms marine life can instead play a direct role in helping it flourish. Sabra offers, “As an environmental artist I create artwork that brings to light again and again the impact our current consumption is having on our environment.

SAGUARO by Arizona-based artist Ghazal Ghazi is an 8-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a cactus designed to promote thriving marine life. The saguaro cactus is a unique, famous, and distinct cactus that only grows in the Sonoran Desert. The artist believes having a sculpture of a saguaro cactus on the bottom of the ocean floor will offer a unique juxtaposition carrying multiple layers of interpretation. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

DEPTH OF DECISION by Boston-based artist Gianna Stewart is a gesture for the ocean, a sunken series of decisions. Nuances to the cast concrete doors will be visible during its preview on land, and various openings in its structure and doors will serve as artificial reef for marine life. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

Husband and wife team, design duo, and dive buddies Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon will co-create I FOUND IT! The sculpture will consist of elements relating to a lost pirate treasure. The central element will be a 6-7’ tall diamond ring consisting of a cast concrete band and a jewel fabricated with a stainless steel rod structure covered on the inside with expanded metal lath and covered in “Clean Concrete” to create a hollow volumetric diamond. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

LET’S NOT BLOW THIS is a creation by American designer Kevin Reilly. This piece represents the earth as a fragile dandelion. The hand represents man’s potential to restore and protect our environment. It is meant, now more than ever, as a hopeful call to do all that we can to preserve our natural world. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

LOVE THYSELF is a collaborative project between Artist/Designer Maxine Orange, Concept Designer Maurice Hunter, and Concrete Work Fabricator Rick Goetchius with mold creation from Digital Atelier LLC. The group shares that “Being part of the UMA experience will be a great opportunity for us to express our passion for utilizing art to communicate meaningful ideas with the potential to make a social impact.” The theme is rooted in the concept of SELF-LOVE. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)

Florida-based artist Rachel Herring will construct an underwater FLAMINGLE. “Flamingos symbolize fun, relaxation, and socializing-- perfect description for this creation,” Rachel shares. She further notes, “The sculpture upholds my whimsical and playful art theme, and the shape of the columns along with the outlines of the flamingos will remain recognizable as growth occurs on the sculpture.” Rachel is also the creator of the 2018 UMA sculpture, The Grayt Pineapple. (Photo credit: Troy Ruprecht, We Create Lift)