If the deployment of artificial reefs off our coast was not unique enough, we are now told they will be adorned with sculpture.
The idea came about through a joint brainstorming of South Walton Artificial Reef Association President Andy McAlexander and local artist Allison Wickey, who then took the idea of underwater artwork to Cultural Arts Association Executive Director Jennifer Steele.
"Basically, it was an opportunity to combine things I really love -- being underwater, beautiful things, and multitasking," said Wickey. "I've been following the exciting work that Andy is doing and underwater sculptures raise awareness for preservation of fragile underwater habitats. So why not combine the projects of SWARA with our local love of the arts for eco-friendly locals and tourists?"
Alexander called the project an underwater museum of art that will create a sculpture garden off Grayton Beach that will either be attached to grouper boxes or pedestal mounts.
Currently, Gulf waters off Walton beaches are 95 percent barren sand flats. Deploying sculpture as artificial reefs will provide a source of biological replenishment and protective marine habitat where none exists. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated to CAA for the purpose of a permanent underwater sculpture exhibit.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness for our marine resources through artistic creation," said McAlexander. "SWARA could not be any more excited to partner with CAA. To accomplish both our missions on one project is incredible."
All artwork will be sculpture.
"It will all be 3D and augment and become the reef," said Steele. "They will be an environment for fish and aquatic life."
The plan is to use up to six sculptures max this year, but hopes are to make this an annual deployment.
The CAA is currently issuing a call to artists for submissions and a committee will choose the scuptures. The committee is made up of members of the community with varying areas of expertise who will select based on how it's determined the piece will fare under water.
There is an international artist who has done this in different parts of the world, but this is the first time this has been done in the United States, said Steele. The project is receiving support from the National Endowment for the Arts for North America's first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit. UMA is the first presentation of CAA's Art in Public Places program.
The sculptures need to be at least 1,500 pounds and less detailed. They will be on the bottom of the Gulf in water 50 to 60 feet deep.
Applications are being accepted through Aug. 11. More information is available on the CAA website at www.culturalartsalliance.com.