Public Art & Such, Starting with the 9th S & 11th E Whale

Rocker - hmm…

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Oh I’m aware. I’m also aware of that the best snow of the season came after the whale was installed. I may or may not also soon be a recipient of a t-shirt with the whale on it to support the Utah Avalanche Center.

I will also take the fact that people have started placing garden gnomes around it, and discarded a couch around it that people innately understand it isn’t that great as far as public art goes.

Okay, here me out. One of my gripes about the whale is its orientation - I said it seemed off. The main reason I think that is no matter how you approach it by car you only get a straight on view of the whale. The only way to appreciate it is to get out and look at it from one of the street corners - or try to look at it while you speed around it. Whereas if they rotated it 45º it could be appreciated from the car and from the sidewalks as well.

Here is proof - look at how the photographer chose to shoot it.

Further proof - I was in a car with some friends this weekend to go to dinner in the 9th and 9th area and the people in the car as we approached heading toward from 9th south said, “What in the world is that blob…” It wasn’t until we started to go around the roundabout that they got what it was.

The orientation alone makes it seem pretty mediocre.

Some thoughts:

  1. Those of us who are incapable of tolerating anything that isn’t a right angle would appreciate it more.

  2. Geez, I know I haven’t lived in SLC for over twenty years now, but that 9th and 9th sure looks different, even without the whale.

  3. What’s up with the traffic jam going west on 9th South?

  4. Just the mere fact that there is even a little bit of public art (bad or not) in the City shows how much things have changed.

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Salt Lake actually has a lot of public art, which is great. But the whale… not so great-ish.

Just drove past a little while ago and there is no couch there. There are still a few garden gnomes. I’m not sure how that means it’s not interesting public art. And if people can’t tell it’s a big whale when driving by then they are ignorant, obtuse, or lack basic observation skills. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea it’s definitely unique and memorable. Most other public art is staid, ordinary and forgettable. Yes that includes the rather pedestrian Spiral Jetty and that “tree” thing out on the way to Wendover. Yawn.


Uh… really? Totally disagree. Lots of interesting and challenging public art in this valley.

And anyone saying that about the spiral jetty doesn’t get the spiral jetty nor the history of it. It is one of the most famous and beloved pieces of monument art in the world. It will be has been remembered and recognized by generations and for generations.

The whale is a poorly oriented piece of fiberglass that will be removed in 20 years when it becomes an eyesore.

The whale is made of metal.

“Out of the Blue will be hand sculpted from recyclable foam, and then made from fiberglass around a steel frame.”

I’m glad some people like it, enough to defend it strongly. As I said originally I am a fan of public art and I’m okay with art that doesn’t appeal to me personally - because there is a lot of it. But while this art is now among the valley’s most recognizable pieces of public art I wouldn’t say it is its strongest, and honestly feel it would improve dramatically with a slight orientation shift.

I’ve never called for it to be taken down, nor complained about its funding. I even own a t-shirt now with the whale on it, but that is more of a snow thing.

And I’m glad that the more organic community expression of placing the garden gnomes in the roundabout is able to be retained.

In the meantime I encourage everyone to jump on this site and go find and appreciate a lot of fantastic public art around the valley. But much of it I do find awe inspiring, challenging, thought provoking, unique, humorous, often beautiful, and even weird and uncomfortable. I also don’t consider all of it great public art too. This whale, for me, firmly falls in that camp.

I admit I was wrong about it being metal. I go past it everyday and saw them welding on more than one occasion which led to my error.

I’m not a huge fan of the piece but I very much appreciate that finally there is something that is unusual and a conversation piece. Goodness knows there are more than enough murals, statues of people, and various types of pillars which are all rather forgettable and few really stand out. I’m glad that there is something that people are talking about and it’s making news all over the place. Maybe the novelty will wear off with time but at least it’s something interesting for now.

Yesterday I was leaving our rental property on the 700 S block of 1100 E and looking south as I drove I could see the whale. It’s cool.


Check out the site I linked above. As mentioned, Salt Lake has a lot of public art that goes beyond those categories.

For example I was in the Public Safety building this week and they have some great public art (along with some boring murals, statues of people and all that stuff). The architecture is also pretty great, particularly for the type of service the building houses.

The Salt Lake airport is another example - and it has a mix of stuff I really like and others I don’t. But they’ve even done some cool stuff along the light rail that when passing by it at speed is pretty great.

Every great city needs one piece of “what the f?” Sculpture/statute. I guess this is ours.

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We’ve got plenty of those too. I’ve enjoyed going through that site I’ve linked. I’ve seen or experienced most of the installations. Along with others in other cities. I’m fairly certain that someday future generations will wonder what our generation’s fascination with welding rusting gears together, or attaching bike wheels to random places was all about. :joy:

Ironically, if you go and read about how the whale was selected the ability to paint murals on it was central. Also, it is to serve as a public safety tool, as roundabouts usually perform better when you can’t see through them (basically people slow down because much isn’t visible.)

Reading some of the other suggestions that went through the selection process it sounds like it was the best option. But sometimes just because it is the best option doesn’t make it a good option.

Again, my two cents and I’m glad many others feel differently about it.

One I saw getting installed but haven’t experienced is this one:

Looks like I’ve got a field trip coming up. I will post my criticisms here :wink:

900 South is being rebuilt further west, that may be part of it.

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Your posting the catalog of public art kind of makes my point. I know many of the pieces in the catalog because I happen to really like art. But how many of those pieces are widely known or discussed by the general public? How many even know that we have that many pieces in the community? Outside of art enthusiasts how many actually care? There are a lot of cool pieces in this area but most are not that memorable or really stand out. For that reason I think the whale was a great choice. It certainly has created a buzz even if I personally don’t like it that much.

We saw that teflon flags last night coming out of Eccles theater. I didnt know what it was, but thought it looked cool Certainly a million times better than the side of the parking garage behind it. Nice public space next to the theater.