12 Designs Unveiled for Second UMA Installation

March 3, 2019 by SoWal Staff

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) are proud to reveal the twelve sculpture designs selected by jury for permanent exhibition in the second installation of the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA).

The 2019 installation will include the following sculpture: Buttery by Alys Beach Construction (Alys Beach, FL), To Refresh With Water by Beatriz Chachamovits (Sao Paolo, Brazil), Saguaro by Ghazal Ghazo (Tucson, AZ), Aspiration by Shohini Ghosh (Highlands Ranch, CO), Flamingle by Rachel Herring (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Wave! by Benjamin Mefford (Wilsonville, OR), I Found It! by Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon (San Diego, CA), Love Thyself by Maxine Orange (Destin, FL), Let’s Not Blow This by Kevin Reilly (Montgomery, AL), El Plastico by George Sabra (Georgetown, TX), Depth of Decision by Gianna Stewart (Dorchester, MA),  and X.Muta by Vince Tatum (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).

Recently named by TIME Magazine as one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” the UMA is presented as part of CAA’s Art In Public Spaces Program and augments SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitat and expanding fishery populations while providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton.

With support from the Alys Foundation, Visit South Walton, Visit Florida, and the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, UMA will be deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef project that includes nine nearshore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore in approximately 50-60 feet of water. The 2019 installation will join the seven sculptures deployed last June on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum.

Deployment of the 2019 UMA installation is slated for Summer. Visit for more information on timeline and events surrounding UMA’s launch. Project and sculpture sponsorships are available. Please contact Jennifer Steele at for sponsorship details.


BUTTERY, will be a twelve-foot replica of one of Alys Beach’s iconic butteries, which flank the town’s Hwy. 30A entrances, anchoring the beautiful town while welcoming its visitors. The butteries also house sixteen different murals depicting the history and heritage of the local area. Buttery will be fabricated by the Alys Beach construction team and sponsored by The Alys Foundation.

TO REFRESH WITH WATER is a design by Brazilian artist and marine researcher Beatriz Chachamovits. This sculptural piece approaches the theme of ocean degradation through the concept of coral bleaching. The artwork depicts a cluster of different species of Florida’s corals (elkhorn, staghorn, brain and fire) and sponges (tube, vase and barrel) bleached, infused with forms of plastic waste that will be covered through time by new and healthy corals, so that its original white form disappears completely. Primarily modeled out of clay in a 3D printer, to be casted out in clean white cement, with no other additional material, this piece is a hope spot for transformation and awareness. Like most of the artist’s interactive pieces, To Refresh With Water deals with the ephemeral state of the work and its forever changing quality, much like the ocean itself. Reversing the fate of this bleached piece to, in time, a ravishing coral colony is a powerful message in the battle against climate change.

WAVE! is a creation courtesy of American artist Benjamin Mefford. Benjamin is an interdisciplinary artist with a focus on sculpture. The sculpture, a larger-than-life hand, will be constructed to facilitate coral growth utilizing Kansas fencepost limestone columns to create the bulk of the sculpture. These repurposed columns are relics from early settlers who split each block using rudimentary techniques. Now fallen and cast aside, the limestone blocks offer a meaningful and useful sculptural material. Aligned next to each other, narrowly separated, and mounted to stainless steel rods, these columns will form the fingers and palm of the sculpture, Wave!

George Sabra’s EL PLASTICO replicates a plastic bottle on a massive scale constructed of environmentally cast concrete. This representation of something that generally harms marine life can instead play a direct role in helping it flourish. Sabra offers, “As an environmental artist I create artwork that brings to light again and again the impact our current consumption is having on our environment. By inviting the public in we can keep the awareness front and center stage regarding these serious environmental issues facing the ocean, land, air and human health and inspiring people to come up with positive solutions for change.”

SAGUARO by Arizona-based artist Ghazal Ghazi is an 8-foot tall stainless steel sculpture of a cactus designed to promote thriving marine life. The saguaro cactus is a unique, famous, and distinct cactus that only grows in the Sonoran Desert, which extends into southern Arizona and the city of Tucson.  The artist believes having a sculpture of a saguaro cactus on the bottom of the ocean floor will offer a unique juxtaposition carrying multiple layers of interpretation. Ghazi explains, “For one, representing the image of a plant synonymous with dry, desert heat and an environment where water is a scarce and precious resource in an underwater art museum will have divers/visitors do a double-take, since a cactus might very well be the last thing a diver would be thinking of as they swim in the ocean. Also, it encourages divers to reflect on how precious and scarce water is in other places around the world, even as they are literally immersed in water itself. This carries with it an implied value of stewardship, ecology, and sustainability. Furthermore, given how the sculpture will promote marine life and reef life on the actual body of the sculpture itself, it will also be a reminder of the resilience and diversity of life. Despite the desert’s stereotypical reputation as a barren place, it is actually teeming with life, and saguaros themselves provide shelter and refuge to many creatures in the Sonoran Desert, just as the sculpture would to marine life underwater.”

DEPTH OF DECISION by Boston-based artist Gianna Stewart is a gesture for the ocean, a sunken series of decisions. Nuances to the cast concrete doors will be visible during its preview on land, and various openings in its structure and doors will serve as artificial reef for marine life. One door is just slightly ajar, another wide open. An open door is an invitation to enter or exit: a closed door is a challenge. A series of doors is a decision, which one to pass through if any. A door to the future, a door to the past. The work may conjure up images of Atlantis, or a flooded city. A door is out of place in an environment of boundless space, unbound by walls or imposing architecture. This series of doors, of decisions will submerge in among marine life that may wander about this unnecessary architecture. Useless, these doors will be forever stuck in various states of ajar, surrounded by nothing but ocean.

Husband and wife team, design duo, and dive buddies Ingram Ober and Marisol Rendon will co-create I FOUND IT! The sculpture will consist of elements relating to a lost pirate treasure. The central element will be a 6-7’ tall diamond ring consisting of a cast concrete band and a jewel fabricated with a stainless steel rod structure covered on the inside with expanded metal lath and covered in “Clean Concrete” to create a hollow volumetric diamond. The stainless structure will be exposed at the surface of the concrete on the outside of the form adding definition to the geometry of the object and maybe a little bling.

LET’S NOT BLOW THIS  is a creation by American designer Kevin Reilly. This piece represents the earth as a fragile dandelion. The hand represents man’s potential to restore and protect our environment. It is meant, now more than ever, as a hopeful call to do all that we can to preserve our natural world. Underwater Museum divers will also be able to visit Kevin’s 2018 installation, JYC’s Dream, an homage to the “Aqualung,” arguably Jacques Cousteau’s greatest invention.

LOVE THYSELF is a collaborative project between Artist/Designer Maxine Orange, Concept Designer Maurice Hunter, and Concrete Work Fabricator Rick Goetchius with mold creation from Digital Atelier LLC. The group shares that  “Being part of the UMA experience will be a great opportunity for us to express our passion for utilizing art to communicate meaningful ideas with the potential to make a social impact.” The theme is rooted in the concept of SELF-LOVE. The team will create a sculpture of a woman appearing to stand in appreciation of her reflection in front of a mirror to visually represent an image of connecting with the power, Love, creativity, and beauty within one’s self and will even include an inspirational written message, “Love Thyself”.

Florida-based artist Rachel Herring will construct an underwater FLAMINGLE. “Flamingos symbolize fun, relaxation, and socializing– perfect description for this creation,” Rachel shares. She further notes, “The sculpture upholds my whimsical and playful art theme, and the shape of the columns along with the outlines of the flamingos will remain recognizable as growth occurs on the sculpture.” Rachel is also the creator of the 2018 UMA sculpture, The Grayt Pineapple.

ASPIRATION designer Shohini Gosh is a Denver-based artist originally from New Delhi, India. Aspiration is a silhouette of a young girl’s face looking up in the longing at the wonders of the future. The sculpture has a beautiful balance of negative and positive space through and around which fish and turtles may swim without hindrance and on which corals can grow. A snorkeling enthusiast and great lover of turtles, Shohini loves creating in 3-Dimension and believes in bringing art outside the white walls of a gallery and into public spaces, creating a sense of community pride.

Artist Vince Tatum will pay homage to one of mother nature’s most amazing creations found on coral reefs, The Giant Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia muta) with his sculpture, X.MUTA. Vince explains, “My goal is to imitate mother nature’s blueprint as best I can, but with clean sprayed cement over rebar. I’ll leave the cement in its organic blown state, to mimic the ebbs and flows of the surface of a sponge, and to give X.muta the properties that make the Giant Barrel Sponge such an attractive and accommodating host to marine life.”  While visiting X.muta, underwater museum of art divers can also check out Vince’s SWARA Skull which was part of the 2018 UMA installation.


The mission of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization is to advance the arts through leadership, advocacy, funding, programs and education. The vision of the CAA is to make Walton County a creative place in which to live, work and visit. Membership information, grant and scholarship applications, and more can be found at


The South Walton Artificial Reef Association is a grassroots, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to deploying and monitoring publicly permitted living reefs in Walton County’s near shore coastal waters for the benefit, education, and enrichment of residents, visitors, and marine habitat for present and future generations. Learn more at


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