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….of the Church of the Sacred Whale

  • Who: Artists Steven Kesler and Mike Murdock; Church of the Sacred Whale  

  • What: A multi-colored whale sculpture (officially named Out of the Blue)

  • Where: 900 S. 1100 E. (9th and 9th neighborhood), Salt Lake City

  • When: April 2022

  • Why: Art, weather, spiritual guidance – your pick

A collage of photos of the humpback whale statue located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
SLC's whale statue is an art piece and the centerpiece for a new church. People leave offerings in hopes of good snow and good vibes.

Build it and they will come – they being the Church of the Sacred Whale.

Which is probably not what artist Steven Kesler imagined when he first built the whale statue. The public art piece, titled Out of the Blue, is a humpback whale, situated in the neighborhood known to locals as 9th and 9th in SLC. Kesler’s intent was for it to reflect the neighborhood that he loves. “9th and 9th is unexpected and out of the blue,” Kesler explained when the artwork was announced. “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.”

Fellow artist Mike Murdock added onto the piece by painting a mural over the top of it. The mural is meant to be an evolving piece as more artists step forward and add their own touches to it – maybe even changing it.

Many people have commented online, to news sources and anyone who will listen that a multi-colored whale poking out of the ground in SLC is odd – regardless of Kesler’s symbolism and intent.  

Enter the Church of the Sacred Whale. Many locals feel the church is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek joke, but others feel the whale has brought record-breaking snow in Utah. Riley Adamson, who founded the Church of the Sacred Whale, said, “If you don’t believe in the Sacred Whale yet, with all this snow, you’ve got to believe in it.” Apparently, some folks agree. The Church’s following has increased with each winter storm.

Regardless of where you fall on the subject of Salt Lake City’s unusual whale, the bottom line is the statue has done what art tends to do: It got people thinking and talking, and that’s pretty groovy.


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