Neighbors size up massive whale sculpture in SLC roundabout

Apr 7, 2022, 11:35 AM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 12:48 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Residents of the 9th and 9th neighborhood were getting familiarized Wednesday with their newest “neighbor” — a 23-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide whale sculpture installed in the roundabout at 1100 East.

“It was just a dead space before, but now it has something,” said Demian Hanks, who was sizing up the public art piece Wednesday evening. “I’ll look at it for the next five years. I don’t care.”

Installation began Friday for Stephen Kesler’s “Out of the Blue” sculpture, which the city approved nearly a year ago.

“It was funny they installed it on the first of April — like April 1st,” Hanks observed. “We all made a joke out of that.”

Kesler previously explained the whale design as being intentionally out-of-the-ordinary to match the 9th and 9th neighborhood.

It was expected to feature rotating murals, beginning with one from artist Mike Murdock.

“I think it brings attention to artists doing cool and unusual stuff,” said Nicole Fisher as she stood across the street and gazed upon the sculpture.

Jared Fisher also spoke favorably about the work of art, saying he viewed it as “one thing to set the neighborhood apart.”

Not everyone understood it as well.

Hanks seemed only to tentatively embrace the sculpture.

“I don’t know, I like it,” he shrugged. “I think it’s fine.”

Chris Lippard said he was trying to figure out the choice of a whale at the roundabout.

“I can’t say it totally fits in because I don’t know any relevancy of whales,” he said.

Lippard said he did like the idea of changing murals over time.

“It fits with the idea of a neighborhood changing things and changing things according to what people want to happen to it,” Lippard said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Salt Lake City Arts Council announced a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 11 at 6 p.m. that was open to the public. Remarks were expected to be given by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and others.

Lippard seemed to embrace the new reality of the whale, noting it was likely to become a prominent landmark in the city. He also urged others not to rush to judgment before the work of art was finished.

“You know, now we’ve got a whale — make the most of it,” Lippard said. “It’s got people discussing things and that’s probably the most important thing about it.”

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Neighbors size up massive whale sculpture in SLC roundabout