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The phrase “barren sand flat” does not typically inspire creativity. It is this condition, however, that makes the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico the perfect spot for the United States’ first Underwater Museum of Art (UMA). Located about three-quarters of a mile off the Florida panhandle and the sugary-white shoreline of Grayton Beach in Walton County, the UMA is scheduled to open at the end of June 2018.

Like similar undertakings near Cancun and the Museo Atlantico Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, the experience is best suited for scuba divers. On clear days, snorkelers will also be able to enjoy the submerged journey, which showcases seven sculptures at a depth of around 60 feet and intermingles responsible tourism, environmentalism, and creativity.

The public space–which will be free of charge for all visitors–is a collaboration between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA)—with support from the Walton County Tourist Development Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. The creations resting on the Gulf’s floor will include an homage to Jacques Cousteau’s Aqua-lung, a hollow pineapple, a skull, and an anamorphous octopus. All have been designed to facilitate and encourage the integration of sea life like coral growth, schools of fish, and embryonic oysters.

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