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Charles Davis

Sometimes traveling companions want to take in a little culture, visit a museum or art gallery. Personally, I enjoy going to museums and art galleries while I travel, however, diving comes first if it is available. If you get into a situation where a gallery stop is a concession you need to make, consider suggesting a visit to an exhibit of Jason DeCaires Taylor. Taylor is a world renown sculptor with his work being shown in many places around the world, and many of those places are also diving destinations. His website sums up his work the best. Jason deCaires Taylor is an internationally acclaimed sculptor who creates underwater living installations, offering viewers mysterious, ephemeral encounters and fleeting glimmers of another world where art develops from the effects of nature on the efforts of man. His site-specific, permanent works are designed to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, increasing marine biomass and aggregating fish species, while crucially diverting tourists away from fragile natural reefs and thus providing space for natural rejuvenation”.

Moiliniere Bay, Grenada was the start of his underwater massive displays. In 2006, the coral reefs of the bay were heavily damaged by storms. As a part of an effort to restore the reefs a sculpture park was established. Special materials are used to create the art work so that it is long lasting and pose no toxic threats to marine life. Damage but living corals were attached to the new bases after they were placed on the sea floor. Additional pieces have been added over the years many of them by Taylor and other pieces by students and other artistic. There are currently 65 pieces of art at a range of depths from surface level to 25 meters. The site is also good for snorkeling. It is only ten to fifteen minutes away from the local dive operators.

The largest underwater art gallery, not counting historical ruins in Greece and Egypt, is MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. The project was conceptualized as a means to reduce some of the diving pressure on the Cancun Marine Park.  The Park is one of the most visited stretches of water in the world with over 750,000 visitors each year. MUSA was created on a barren seabed covering 420 square meters. Taylor has 21 major pieces on the collection, he also has hundreds of life sizes images of people. In total MUSA has over 500 pieces of sculpture in two galleries, one for snorkelers at 4 meters and one for divers and snorkelers at 4 to 9 meters.

The Clifton Heritage National Park in Western New Providence, Bahamas has just opened an underwater garden.  A project of The Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation (BREEF) the underwater gallery is called the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden (CRSG).  The site is named in memory of the organizations founder the late Sir Nicholas Nuttall.  Willicey Tynes, a local artist, conceptualized the project after seeing the work of Jason DeCaires Taylor. The initial phase of the park contains five major statues including “Virtuoso Man”  an 8 ft tall sculpture on a man on his knees by Tynes. A 60 ton sculpture by Taylor  was added recently. Based on the Greek myth Of Atlas, The statue is that of a girl supporting the weight of the oceans on her back. The first stage also has fifty uniquely designed reef balls.

Around the world off the coast of the Egyptian city of Dahab on the Red Sea is another new art gallery, this one includes modern art. Located near the lighthouse in an area without coral coverage three pieces of sculpture have been added. The project was organized by i-Dive Tribe, a community of scuba divers that facilitates recreational dives in Egypt and advocates for the preservation of coral reefs and marine life. The first two depict the likenesses of Bes, the Ancient Egyptian god of joy, and Horus, the falcon god of the sun. In late September they were joined by a 1,700 pound Elephant made from recycled metal parts. Each piece is environmentally safe and designed to provide long term habitats.

If you are in Alabama and have children with you, you could take them to the “ Poseidon's Playground”. The Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation last year created the LuLu artificial reef. The LuLu is a retired 271 foot long cargo vessel what now sits at a depth of 110 feet. The project took tens of thousands of volunteer hours spread over three years and over $500,000 in expenses. Alabama has the largest artificial reef program in the US, however all are deep. The new “Poseidon's Playground” project differs from previous projects, instead of one massive ship, the new reef will be made of smaller pieces. Mostly the pieces are designed to look like playground equipment, benches, picnic tables, bicycles, statues and other items of that nature. The site selected is closer to shore than the other sites and ranges from 30 to 50 feet in depth. The site is being designed with the novice open water diver, junior diver and dive training in mind. Sponsors can select a statue, “playground device” or a theme designed reef ball to be added to the playground.  Special designs will also be available after being approved by the state. The site will be expanded as more sponsors become involved.

So in your next trip, see some artwork.

Cover photo: "The Fall From Grace" in Moliniere Bay, Grenada. Credit

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