“Hello there! My name is Mike and I’d like to paint your whale.”

The Salt Lake City Public Art Program is thrilled to announce that Mike Murdock (he/him/his), a renowned local artist, designer, and muralist, will be the inaugural commissioned artist on Stephen Kesler’s Out of the Blue, a full-size sculpture of a humpback whale that will be located on the roundabout at 900 South and 1100 East. Murdock’s mural, which will be painted directly onto the surface of Out of the Blue, is inspired by the breathtaking view of the Salt Lake Valley that is seen from above the 9th and 9th neighborhood.

“If you walk up directly up 900 South to 1300 East,” writes Murdock, “you get a really spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. This is kind of the last big dip into the city before the valley opens. You really get a good sense of location and great feel for the lay of the land. The 9th and 11th intersection always sort of felt like the heart of the city.” Murdock’s abstract interpretation of the changing and awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets experienced from this vantage point is beautifully reflected in the vibrant and colorful mural he proposed.

Murdock’s own intimate relationship to the 9th and 9th community made him the perfect artist to receive this commission. “A large chunk of my life has been spent in the 9th and 9th neighborhood,” writes the artist, “I literally stood in this corner of the neighborhood for over a decade, staring at the intersection where Out of the Blue will be constructed.” For over 11 years, Murdock worked at Caffé Expresso, an iconic neighborhood drive-thru coffee shop directly across the street from the roundabout. Additionally, Murdock called the neighborhood home for most of those 11 years; the artist lived just a few houses down the street from the roundabout. Much like the unexpected nature of Out of the Blue, Murdock describes this commission as the “universe dropping a huge whale out of the sky and into my lap. I am very excited about the possibility of contributing something to this special neighborhood.”

Every 3-5 years, a new artist or artist-led team will be commissioned to repaint the sculpture, allowing Out of the Blue to remain current with the neighborhood and the artwork be reinterpreted through time. Murdock’s mural proposal was approved for commission by Mayor Erin Mendenhall earlier this summer following a call for artists open to Utah-based artists or artist-led teams. Several stakeholders participated in the decision-making process that ultimately awarded the commission to Murdock, including the Salt Lake Art Design Board, the City’s Engineering and Transportation departments, the East Liberty Park Community Organization (ELPCO), and commissioned artist Stephen Kesler.

Throughout the construction and fabrication stages, Kesler has enthusiastically worked with our program to ensure timely completion of Out of the Blue, including its safety and engineering requirements, as well as coordinating with Murdock for the successful installation of his landscape mural.

Follow along as Out of the Blue emerges in the 9th and 9th neighborhood at @slc_publicartprogram, @stephenkesler_tusk, and @mikemurdock48.

The Public Art Program is a service of the Salt Lake City Arts Council. You can learn more at www.saltlakearts.org and www.saltlakepublicart.org.