When observing wildlife’s reaction to artificial reefs one day, artist Allison Wickey was hit with a burst of inspiration. It was then that she first conceptualized the Underwater Museum of Art, abbreviated as UMA, which eventually became the first underwater museum in Florida.
A collaboration between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, the museum is located off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. Seven sculptures were installed in 2018, although we may eventually see as many as ten new exhibits a year. Each piece is made from between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds of concrete. Andy McAlexander, the association board president, and his team oversaw the sustainability of the sculpture’s materials, ensuring there were no plastics or pollutants in the artwork.
While McAlexander was initially skeptical of the museum, its beauty soon swayed his opinion from ambivalence to reverence. “I have never been prouder to have had the privilege to work with such talented and visionary people in my life. This project has changed my perspective towards art,” said McAlexander.
The museum also features an interactive aspect. The sculptures are not just aesthetic feats; they also serve as artificial reefs. They are meant to attract aquatic wildlife, as well as various plants. The effectiveness of these sculptures was immediate. Within an hour of their placement, fish had begun to swarm them, adding to the museum’s unique allure.
Admission to the museum is free, although visitors will have to dive underwater to access it. Guests are required to have a scuba license before visiting.
If you would like to learn more about the museum, you can visit the UMA website for pictures and detailed information on each sculpture. You can also read about the museum’s upcoming additions.
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