Underwater Museum Of Art in SoWal Named to Time Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places 2018

August 29, 2018 by SoWal Staff

TIME Magazine has revealed its inaugural list of the World’s Greatest Places, and SoWal is part of history!

The prestigious list highlights 100 destinations that are breaking new ground, leading industry trends and offering visitors an extraordinary experience.

TIME solicited nominations across a variety of categories from TIME editors and correspondents around the world, as well as dozens of industry experts. TIME evaluated each one based on several key factors, including quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence. The result is a list as diverse as the world it reflects, with entries spanning six continents and 48 countries. See the full list>

Half a nautical mile from the coast of Florida’s panhandle and 60 ft. below the lapping waves, an 8-ft.-tall stainless-steel pineapple reaches its spiky leaves back toward the sky. It’s one of the seven sculptures placed in America’s first underwater museum, which opened this summer. But the pieces are meant to do more than look pretty, says Jennifer Steele, the executive director of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA). “The purpose is for them to become part of the environment, enhancing it and stimulating the ecosystem,” she explains, noting that new designs will be added each year. Although visitors who want an up-close experience need be trained scuba divers—or fish themselves—it is possible to sneak a peek from the surface. CAA just asks that boats not anchor nearby; they wouldn’t want you disturbing the art.

World’s Greatest Places is the latest addition to TIME’s robust lineup of editorial franchises, which also includes the TIME 100 Most Influential People, Best Inventions, Person of the Year, Next Generation Leaders, and more.­

photo courtesy of Spring Run Media

The Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) was included in the list of World’s Greatest Places in the Visit category. The UMA is the first presentation of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County’s (CAA) Art In Public Spaces Program and was produced in collaboration with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) with a purpose to create art that becomes marine habitat, expanding fishery populations and providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students 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. “To receive this kind of international recognition in our first year is extremely rewarding, and 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.”

The UMA opened in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton, Fla. on June 25, 2018. Seven sculptures became part of the inaugural UMA 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.

“I am amazed at how a common love of the sea, marine life and the beach community has brought this project to life,” said CAA Board President and 2018 UMA Artist Allison Wickey. “Having the Underwater Museum of Art recognized by a publication that shares our fascination with the earth is the highest honor and proof that projects rooted in the appreciation of nature capture the hearts of all living beings.”

The UMA was deployed on June 25, 2018 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. A one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park has been dedicated for the purpose of a permanent underwater sculpture exhibit. The UMA patch will continue to be filled with several sculptures annually. 

Admission to the UMA is free. No ticket or reservation is required. However, there is a fee to enter Grayton Beach State Park. The UMA is only accessible in person as a dive location. Divers who wish to visit the site can take a dive boat .7 miles off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. The coordinates for the center sculpture (SWARA Skull) are Latitude N 30 18.754 Longitude W 86 09.522. Out of respect for the art, boaters are asked to find the center location and then move away from the park to anchor in order to avoid damage to the artwork. For non-divers, there are photos and videos of the sculptures online, which will be updated periodically to document the marine growth on each sculpture.

The 2018 UMA installation is presented by Visit South Walton with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Alys Foundation, Florida Department of State Cultural Affairs Division, Visit Florida, 30A Company, BOTE, Bud & Alley’s Restaurant, O.B. Laurent Construction, and 30A Coastal Dunes Wine Company. Special thanks to Walter Marine, Spring Run Media, and Galati Yachts for their partnership in the deployment.

Artists interested in submitting artwork for consideration to the 2019 UMA installation can visit to complete a pre-application. To join SWARA in making a difference, visit


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