Penn Hills artist builds pirate shipwreck sculpture for underwater museum in Florida

A Penn Hills artist was able to give a unique contribution to the sea by commissioning his first large sculpture for an underwater museum in Florida.

Sean Coffey, owner of the Coffey Shop, built a 10-foot-long, 9-foot-wide replica of a pirate shipwreck for the Underwater Museum of Art, the first and only permanent underwater sculpture museum in the United States.

The piece was done in partnership with a program with the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and South Walton Artificial Reef Association.

“I didn’t expect to get accepted,” Coffey said. “I was kind of scared at first, thinking, how am I going to be able to afford this?”

Coffey said the sculpture took 200-300 hours to construct in Braddock. After finishing the piece, he drove 24 hours to deliver the project to its new home, in the Gulf of Mexico off Walton County, Fla. He said it represents the largest sculpture he had done by himself.

“I think it turned out well,” he said. “I was happy with it.”

The 35-year-old has been creating artwork professionally for 15 years. He learned how to paint at age 5.

Coffee grew up in Chambersburg, Franklin County, building log cabins and vintage cars, and moved west in 2005 to study at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He ran a studio in his Homewood apartment or bounced around friends’ places for projects before opening his own studio near his house in Penn Hills in 2013.

He said he enjoys keeping himself busy as much as possible and works eight to 12 hours a day at least six or seven days a week.

Coffey’s work can be seen locally and out of state including Maryland, New York, Virginia and Ohio. He estimates working on four to five murals a month, noting summertime is the busiest season. In a year, he said he does 100 projects for clients.

To offset any expenses with his work, Coffey recycles a majority of the materials he uses to create furniture, paintings, murals and sculptures. He describes his work as providing creative solutions to help his clients with anything.

“I really enjoy creating stuff for people that they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.

Coffey does a lot of work with Shadyside artist John Muldoon. The pair have done projects for Sly Fox Brewery & Pub at The Highline, Doce Taqueria and Steel City Arts Foundation.

“He brings to the table a lot of things I don’t,” Muldoon said. “He has a background in engineering. It’s terrific. I am self-taught and traditionally trained. It goes together perfectly.

Muldoon said the pair are always hungry for more opportunities for work.

Coffey said he was not able to see the sculpture be placed in the water but has plans to visit the sculpture in March.

Tanisha Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tanisha by email at or via Twitter .

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