An underwater sculpture garden off the South Walton coast has been named among the world's greatest places by Time Magazine.
The Underwater Museum of Art — a collection of seven sculptures submerged off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park — was named to the list of 100 destinations across the globe that are "breaking new ground, leading industry trends and offering visitors an extraordinary experience," according to a press release. The list spans six continents and 48 countries.
The UMA opened in the Gulf of Mexico on June 25 — making it North America’s first underwater permanent sculpture exhibit, according to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. Seven sculptures became part of the inaugural 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. The garden, which has been allotted 1 acre of Gulf floor, has room to expand.
The UMA was included in the "To Visit" category (the other categories were "To Stay" and "To Eat and Drink"). The UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County’s Art In Public Spaces Program and was produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA). According to the arts alliance, the sculpture garden's purpose is to create art that becomes marine habitat, expanding fishery populations and providing creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for residents and visitors in South Walton.
“It has been a wonderfully challenging experience for the CAA to reach outside our comfort zone and work with SWARA to create the nation’s first permanent underwater museum of art,” said CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele. “It inspires us even more as we continue to expand the UMA with original, beautiful artwork each year.”
SWARA Board President Andy McAlexander added, “What an honor for the UMA to be included on such a monumental list.”
See the full list at time.com/greatestplaces.