SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – If you’ve driven through the Liberty Park neighborhood, by now you’ve probably already witnessed the massive full-size sculpture of a humpback whale that sits in the middle of a roundabout.

This new public art installation — titled “Out of the Blue”— shows a humpback whale breaching out of the roundabout at 900 South and 1100 East and is described as, “a forty-foot wide whale hug,” by Utah sculptor Stephen Kesler.

Courtesy: SLC Government

It turns out that Kesler’s sculpture was recommended by Salt Lake City’s Art Design Board for commission and later approved by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

“Out of the Blue” is designed to complement and augment the unique identity of the 9th and 9th area, celebrating a community that is welcoming and stands for respect.

Kesler states, “9th and 9th is unexpected and out of the blue, explaining to Salt Lake City Arts that it represents a community where “people from all backgrounds beliefs and ideas migrate and feel a sense of belonging. A community that bursts through expectations; commanding respect for nature, others’ ideas and identities.”

The humpback whale represents community, resilience, and harmony.

The Sale Lake Arts Council says the design was influenced by input from the 9th and 9th community. 

The Public Art Program collaborated with the East Liberty Park Community Organization to release a survey to residents and visitors to the 9th and 9th area, which solicited community input on the artwork through questions like “What is a public artwork that speaks to you?” and “What would you like an artist to know about the 9th and 9th neighborhood?”

Over 100 responses were provided to Kesler to help inform his proposal, as did his own experiences working in the area throughout his career.

The sculpture will host murals created by different artists on a rotating basis, to reflect the dynamic and transforming nature of the neighborhood.

This particular roundabout was selected for public art funding back in 2019, and it represents the first percent-for-art public art commission in Salt Lake City’s District 5 since 2016.