The Salt Lake City Arts Council has appreciated receiving valuable feedback from the community regarding Out of the Blue, by nationally-acclaimed artist Stephen Kesler. This public artwork—which features a life-size humpback whale breeching from the roundabout at 900 South and 1100 East and will be painted with a changing series of murals—was recommended by Salt Lake City’s Art Design Board for commission after a rigorous artwork selection process and was subsequently approved by Mayor Erin Mendenhall for commission.

Throughout the artwork selection process, including after the announcement of the commission, the Salt Lake City Arts Council has received input from the community regarding the artistic and social nature of this work. Members of our staff connected with many residents, business owners, and visitors to the 9th and 9th neighborhood through emails, phone calls, and meetings. The comments we received, both positive and negative, are extremely valuable us at the Salt Lake City Arts Council as they provide us with an opportunity to:

  • Deepen our connection with the City’s residents;
  • Identify areas of opportunity in which we can improve our processes;
  • Allow us to share the social, cultural, and economic value of public art projects such as this one;
  • And talk with residents about how the Public Art Program is funded and how artworks are selected for commission.

We’ve specifically had the opportunity to address questions about the safety of placing public artwork near a public right-of-way, the future of the gnome community that lives in the roundabout (they can stay!), methods to deter and respond to graffiti, and the process by which this artwork was selected. To learn more about scope of this project, its safety, cultural and artistic value, and the public art process undertaken for this commission, we invite our community members to explore Getting to know ‘Out of the Blue’, which specifically addresses many the concerns cited above.

The Public Art Program strives to strike a careful balance between supporting professional artists in doing what they do best—creating conversation-sparking, aesthetic, meaningful artwork—and being responsive to the artistic sensibilities of many different community members. Since its inception in 1984, the City’s Public Art Program has commissioned over 130 site-specific works of art throughout the City in a highly collaborative process that involves city officials, stake holders, residents, and community leaders. We are thrilled to welcome Kesler’s Out of the Blue into our growing collection of public art, which strives to reflect the many different views, opinions, and artistic preferences of our community and be a vital component of our vibrant urban landscape. We sincerely appreciate the time taken by community members to engage with us and share concerns, questions, enthusiasm, and many creative ideas!

Out of the Blue will be fabricated during the summer and installation is expected to take place in the fall.  Starting this fall, a new artist or artist-led team will paint a new mural directly onto the surface of the sculpture every several years, allowing the artwork to transform and be re-interpreted over time. The project was designed this way to reflect the dynamism and transformation of the 9th and 9th neighborhood, and to allow the public art in the area to remain current with the neighborhood. A Call for Artists to design the first mural that will be installed on Out of Blue will open on Friday, May 14 and run through June 18, with a mural proposal selected in July.

We welcome continued engagement from community members and can be reached at or (801) 596-5000 (please plan to leave a voicemail as we are working remotely at this time).