Whale vs. gnomes: The battle raging inside SLC’s 9th & 9th roundabout

Local News
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A whale of a controversy has surfaced in the capital city’s 9th and 9th neighborhood where the newest resident set to move in…is a 23-foot-tall marine mammal.

600 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and 4300 feet above sea level, the enormous humpback whale will emerge from the roundabout at 9th S. and 11th E. Mayor Erin Mendenhall signed off on the sculpture after the Salt Lake City Arts Council surveyed a hundred residents of the area.

On Wednesday, ABC4 News asked the Mayor “Why a whale?”

“Well, it’s unexpected and 9th and 9th is an unexpected sort of community,” the Mayor replied.

“I think it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard for a statue in Salt Lake City,” Jean Lamberty, a visitor from Dallas told ABC4. “There’s no ocean here. A whale doesn’t belong.”

Local artist Stephen Kesler, who has created similar works for the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, is sculpting the piece and it’s a big son of a breach, standing 23 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Some say it will be a “whalecom” addition.

“We love the idea of the whale. We think it’s going to be amazing and spectacular,” Caffe Expresso barista Sunny Evans said. “It’s Out of the Blue. That’s the name of the sculpture and it is certainly out of the blue.”
But some residents are simply “bewhaledered” and think this idea blows.  

“We don’t feel like the whale represents us very well,” Anne Marie Miller said.

“I don’t understand what it has to do with this area,” Spencer Bradham added. “It’s really big and distracting for the roundabout and it also, doesn’t quite fit the neighborhood.”

“I think it’s a traffic hazard potentially,” Miller said. “It will block the view. You won’t be able to see who’s coming through the roundabout and it’s distracting.”

There is one additional problem. In the past year, that roundabout has become “gnome man’s land.” Some residents are worried that when the whale arrives, the gnomes will have to go somewhere “elf.”

A Change.org petition called Save the Gnomes of 9th and 9th shows photos of the protesting imps.

“Well I think gnomes and whales can coexist,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “There’s a little bit of irony when we talk about 9th and 9th being a welcoming community that there would be people saying ‘A whale’s not welcome here but gnomes are’ so we hope they can coexist. There’s space on that roundabout for them all to be there and we have a place for the gnomes to move just to the side as the whale gets installed and they will surely be welcomed back.”

So the people of the 9th and 9th neighborhood will not be gnomeless?

“No, there will be no gnomeless gnomes at the 9th and 9th roundabout,” the Mayor said with a smile.

The whale sculpture is being finished this summer and no doubt will make a splash when it’s installed in the fall.

To read more about the installation, go to: https://saltlakearts.org/2021/03/10/stephen-kesler-out-of-the-blue/.

To see the Save the Gnomes of 9th & 9th petition, go to: https://www.change.org/p/save-the-gnomes-of-9th-9th.

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