Art has long been used to convey awareness for dozens of social, cultural and economic issues to the American public before, but not like this. A first of its kind in North America, sustainable art has submerged in unison in a cultural collaborative and mindful effort to also bring sharp awareness to marine life and the health of our waters.
The innovative Underwater Museum of Art’s (UMA’s) first collection, is an eco-conscious, creative exhibit comprised of seven permanent underwater sculptures that will serve as habitats off the Grayton Beach shore within reach of the existing South Walton Artificial Reef Association’s (SWARA’s) artificial reef.
So, why are artificial reefs a good thing here along the Gulf? And why drop an underwater art installment in with them?
Most importantly: long-term benefits to the ecosystem with no documented long-term adverse effects for the Gulf.
Simply put, the structures — the reefs and sculptures — offer a habitat, which in turn attracts life.
By creating and installing an ecologically sustainable reef, the structures can promote procreation and population of fish species, including baitfish, sea turtles and dolphins.
Some species that have been scarce off the coast, will now have sanctuary to flourish. Yes, and that means sharks. And according to the passionate conservationist Andy McAlexander, SWARA president and founder, that is a good thing. “People may be bothered by the fact that we are bringing in sharks, but having a predator presence, that’s actually a sign of a healthy reef system.”
Other notable benefits to our waters include: creating reproduction zones, increasing fish populations in surrounding areas, improvements in fishermen’s catch, study areas for scientists and students, and eco-tourism opportunities for visitors.
The location was set in Grayton Beach State Park to install the reefs simply based on accessibility, it made the most sense logistically with boats launching from the area.
“There is a real opportunity for biological replenishment for marine life in our Gulf waters that are otherwise barren and flat,” McAlexander said.
The goal was to thoughtfully place structures off the Gulf coast that will create abundant life. And the flip side of that coin, we can draw ecological, economical and educational benefits from for years to come.
Check out this video of the 30A Team talking about the project that they have proudly sponsored:
30A proudly sponsored this extraordinary stainless steel 🍍sculpture by Rachel Herring of Herring Design Co. …. it will soon be deployed 🐠UNDERWATER🦈 as part of the FIRST Underwater Museum of Art in the U.S…. right here along 30A! CHECK THIS OUT:
Posted by 30A on Thursday, 24 May 2018
In deploying the reefs, McAlexander and SWARA’s efforts have not only started a conversation, but created a solution.
“Some of us just want to augment the negative impact we have on our seas. And by creating an atmosphere where the creatures can benefit, we can off-set those. We can give back to these things we overtake.”
The UMA project bridged two of South Walton’s assets to influence a larger conscious crowd all in the name of preservation. More people can be reached in becoming aware of how to take action in our daily lives in being good stewards to mother nature.
More than ever, bringing awareness to our human effect on our oceans and seas is critical.
“Bringing together conservationists and art lovers, we are exposing more people to the marine conservation conversation.
This clicks with a lot of people. The message is getting out to an even broader philanthropic-minded audience,” McAlexander said.
Creating the reef program, and collaborating with the Cultural Arts Alliance to install UMA, is, of the least on this side of the shore, creating a conversation and generating awareness. This project has extended an open invitation to have the conversations that we are responsible for the health of our waters, and further, our world. If we take care of our oceans and seas, they will take care of us.
“No matter what you do in your daily life, it makes its way to the sea. Creating this program allows people the opportunity to become more conscious of how our daily actions effect the world at large, and an opportunity to do things different,” McAlexander said.
CAROLINE STEPHENSON is a contributing writer to 30A.com.