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Murray Journal

Murray City Hall art piece showcases community pride with new laser-cut discs

Mar 30, 2023 04:25PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The “Unfettered Unity” art installation graces Murray City Hall. (Photo courtesy of Karl Hale)

With the opening of a new city hall comes unfettered unity within Murray City. At least, that’s what artist Karl Hale hopes. The city has chosen Hale to decorate the northern exterior of the building with his unique art pieces.

Hundreds of metal discs arranged in a wave will depict familiar images within the city. The project has taken several months to install but now completed in time for the opening of the new city hall. In addition, the city plans on having several large art pieces installed around the edifice.

“‘Unfettered Unity’ is an effort to celebrate the independent spirit of Murray while also showing the strength of the city’s cooperative spirit,” Hale said. “The root inspiration came from the city’s circular symbol, which exploded into a full circle packing (a branch of mathematics interested in how tightly packed circles relate to each other). The piece has three visual layers: at a distance, you see the sweeping flow from a strong past to a limitless future built on the natural and manmade infrastructure of the three rivers running through Murray and the industry of its history. As you come closer, the piece resolves into the complex simplicity of the circle packing, and then at the closest inspection, your individual representations of the beauty and strength of Murray, including the earliest settlers, the academic institutions, the commerce engines of the area, and the architectural heritage of the city.”

Hale’s artwork will feature images of Murray’s history and culture. He incorporates images of local landmarks, including the Murray Theater and Wheeler Farm. Residents will recognize Cottonwood and Murray high schools’ logos. Hales hopes his work will resonate with locals.

“I hope they feel inspired toward their own creative greatness. I speak a language that is not common in art: that of math and science. I hope others who may not consider themselves to be particularly creative look at this piece and feel the pull to create using whatever language is theirs,” Hale said. 

The laser-cutting process will allow Hale to create intricate and detailed designs that will be mounted on the walls of the city hall. The steel will be coated with a special finish to prevent rust and weathering, ensuring that the artwork will last for years to come.

“I am an engineer by training, and my art is strongly influenced by that background. I love to express math and engineering in ways that are aesthetically interesting while being accessible to people of diverse backgrounds,” Hale said.

Hale is known for his skill in creating intricate designs and patterns using laser-cutting technology. His work has been featured in Magna and two in Salt Lake City. Those are all the same medium. His next public piece will be painted, carved wood, and installed in Brigham City. He also has several pieces in private collections.

“I started my art career in wood but quickly discovered the value of metal for longevity and durability. Laser-cut steel seems to work well in a public setting because you can produce a large-scale piece with good visual impact that is also easy for the public works folks to take care of,” Hale said.

As for the Murray City Hall piece, Hale has said the hard part was not the installation of it but of something less tangible.

“Waiting to have it up. It’s been a pleasure working through the entire process, including working with the art committee as well as the construction crew,” Hale said. 

For such a large art project, Hale has no formal training in art.

“I spent two decades in the software world before unintentionally making a piece of art. That first piece got some good attention and showed me that engineering can be interesting and aesthetically pleasing, so I went from there,” Hale said.

The completed project stands 15 feet tall and 42 feet long. Murray City Hall is slated to open in June.