Lonely Planet Writer

The first ever underwater museum in the US opens in Florida

The United States of America’s first ever underwater museum has opened in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, allowing visitors the opportunity to dive down approximately 58 feet to explore unique installations that have been specifically designed to help promote local sea life.

SWARA Skull being submerged.
SWARA Skull being submerged. Image by We Create LIFT

A collaboration between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, the Underwater Museum of Art is located off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. Each of the pieces that are in place have been designed not only as eye-catching art pieces, but as environmentally-sound objects that can become marine habitats in an effort to expand sea life populations. More than 90% of the Gulf of Mexico is considered a “barren sand flat”, an environment this is inhospitable to most marine life. The sculptures in the museum will act as artificial reefs, providing an anchor point for coral, plants and aquatic creatures.

One of the pieces, entitled Anamorphous Octopus, in place under the water.
One of the pieces, entitled Anamorphous Octopus, in place under the water. Image by Spring Run Media

Open now, the underwater museum’s inaugural installation includes seven sculptures by different artists. Pieces include “SWARA Skull” by Vince Tatum, an eight-foot-tall piece designed to attract marine life and coral, “The Grayt Pineapple” by Rachel Herring, a stainless steel sculpture that will help small fish flourish and “Anamorphous Octopus” by Allison Wickey, an installation made up of 16 metal bars. Another piece, “Concrete Rope Reef Spheres”, has been made using a patent-pending clean concrete formula developed by the artist to match the chemical makeup of an oyster shell, with small nooks and crannies that will be filled with living oysters and other marine species over time. One acre has been designated to the Underwater Museum of Art, and will be filled with several sculptures annually.

Propeller in Motion being lowered into the sea. Image by Spring Run Media

“The perspective when viewing the sculptures in a marine environment is drastically different than when on land,” said SWARA board president Andy McAlexander, who dove the site right after the pieces were put in place. “The intent of the project was proven within an hour of deployment when we could see schools of bait fish swarming the structures, completely validating the entire effort. 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.”

The sculptures will act as anchor points for marine life to thrive. Image by Spring Run Media

Admission to the Underwater Museum of Art is free, however there is a fee to enter Grayton Beach State Park, and visitors wishing to visit the site require a certification in scuba. The coordinates for the centre sculpture are Latitude N 30 18.754 Longitude W 86 09.522.

More information about the Underwater Museum of Art is available at the official website.