TIME revealed its first annual list of the World’s Greatest Places, which highlights 100 destinations that are breaking new ground, leading industry trends and offering visitors an extraordinary experience. The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA), located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach, Florida, was included in the list of World’s Greatest Places in the Visit category–a huge honor for this incredible entry to the 30A community.
The UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County’s (CAA) Art In Public Spaces Program and was produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA).
SWARA Board President Andy McAlexander added, “What an honor for the UMA to be included on such a monumental list.”
To create the list, TIME solicited nominations across a variety of categories—including museums, parks, restaurants and hotels—from TIME editors and correspondents around the world, as well as dozens of industry experts. TIME evaluated each one based on several key factors, including quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence. The result is a list as diverse as the world it reflects, with entries spanning six continents and 48 countries.
UMA was created with a purpose 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.
“To receive this kind of international recognition in our first year is extremely rewarding, and it inspires us even more as we continue to expand the UMA with original, beautiful artwork each year,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. See the full list of World’s Greatest Places.
The UMA opened in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton, Fla. on June 25, 2018. Seven sculptures became part of the inaugural UMA installation: “Propeller in Motion” by Marek Anthony, “Self-Portrait” by Justin Gaffrey, “The Grayt Pineapple” by Rachel Herring, “JYC’s Dream” by Kevin Reilly, “SWARA Skull” by Vince Tatum, “Concrete Rope Reef Spheres” by Evelyn Tickle and “Anamorphous Octopus” by Allison Wickey.
“I am amazed at how a common love of the sea, marine life and the beach community has brought this project to life,” said CAA Board President and 2018 UMA Artist and founder Allison Wickey.
“Having the Underwater Museum of Art recognized by a publication that shares our fascination with the earth is the highest honor and proof that projects rooted in the appreciation of nature capture the hearts of all living beings.”
The UMA was deployed on June 25, 2018 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 approximately 50-60 feet of water. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated for the purpose of a permanent underwater sculpture exhibit. The UMA patch will continue to be filled with several sculptures annually.
Admission to the UMA is free. No ticket or reservation is required. However, there is a fee to enter Grayton Beach State Park. The UMA is only accessible in person as a dive location. 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 N 30 18.754 Longitude W 86 09.522.
Out of respect for the art, boaters are asked to find the center location and then move away from the park to anchor in order to avoid damage to the artwork. For non-divers, there are photos and videos of the sculptures online, which will be updated periodically to document the marine growth on each sculpture.
Artists interested in submitting artwork for consideration to the 2019 UMA installation can visit UMAFL.org to complete a pre-application.