Gulf to get more creations

Nathan Cobb
Walton Sun

SANTA ROSE BEACH — An attraction submerged off the Emerald Coast will gain seven new sculptures this year.

Named among the top 100 greatest places in the world by TIME Magazine, the Underwater Museum of Art sits in about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico about one mile off Grayton Beach State Park, according to a press release from the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County..

The seven new sculptures, which will be installed this summer, will sit alongside 17 others already immersed. This year, one local artist was selected to have her work displayed.

"It’s pretty amazing to be picked from kind of a big list of artists,“ said Katie Witherspoon of Santa Rosa Beach. ”I’m really excited about this new adventure.“

Her sculpture, dubbed Bee Grayt, will stand about 6 feet tall and feature a number of hexagons made out of concrete and reinforced rebar.

She added that her inspiration stemmed from time spent with her best friend, who works as a third-generation beekeeper in South Walton.

“I really wanted to convey the message of ’Let’s start paying more attention to the apiary world as humans,’ ” said Witherspoon, who also runs an online business called the Lil Plant Shop. “I thought it would be a really interesting symbol to also put under the ocean.”

An accurate rendering of her sculpture wasn’t available before deadline.

According to the press release, the museum was made possible by a joint effort between the CAA and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association.

This year’s additions also include: "Building Blocks“ by Zachary Long of Oklahoma City; ”Dawn Dancers” by Shohini Ghosh of Highland Ranch, Colorado; “Eco-Bug” by Boca Raton’s Priscila D’Brito; “From the Depths” by Kirk Seese of Lutherville, Maryland; ”Hope“ by Jonathan Burger of New Bern, North Carolina; and ”Three Wishes“ by San Diego’s Ingram Ober.

Allison Wickey, CAA board president, said the Underwater Museum of Art is the first permanent underwater sculpture garden in the country.

She said there were about 30 applicants this year.

“Each year a juried selection of sculptural works, drawn from artists throughout the world, is installed,” she wrote in a text. “The sculptures quickly attract a wide variety of marine life and, over time, metamorphize into a living reef.

“This eco-tourism attraction not only entices art lovers and divers from around the country and around the globe, it provides a much-needed habitat for local marine life and fisheries, as well as providing marine scientists, wildlife management professionals, ecologists and students with an opportunity to study marine life and measure the impact of artificial reef systems on the Gulf ecosystem.”