Utah's newest public art display is a bit of a thinker.

It's a 25,000-pound, 40-foot-long orange shipping container held up on a large black pole, tilted in a way that its tallest end rises 39 feet in the air among the massive warehouses that align Salt Lake City's industrial-heavy Northwest Quadrant.

In fact, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall understands if it catches you off guard as you travel on California Avenue near 3800 West.

"This isn't a place where you would expect to find art," she said, as she looked at it Thursday. "I would guess that, for the majority of the people who travel here on this busy road, that they're going to think, 'What on earth is that? Is this the result of an accident?'"

This shipping container is actually the centerpiece of nine shipping container-themed pieces that have popped up on the exterior walls of massive warehouses across Salt Lake County in recent years, which have become popular draws for passing truckers.

The giant tilted orange shipping container is called "Trade Balance," and is the brainchild of Steven Price, the founder and president of Price Real Estate. He explains the idea came about three years ago, starting with a trip to Utah's iconic Spiral Jetty and ending with "cargo art" in Denver's RiNo Art District. The two got him thinking about a large project involving shipping containers.

Price has a long list of public art projects in the city, most notably the rhinos, ostrich and pencil that people can find on South Temple in Salt Lake City. His newest piece is billed as Utah's "largest above-ground art installation," representing the commerce, logistics, manufacturing and distribution found in this part of the city.

"We think about trade imbalances all the time ... but this only a part of what this piece is about," he said. "What this piece is really about is the trade of decorum, the trade of diplomacy, the trade of similar values and similar interests."

Salt Lake City’s newest public art piece, “Trade Balance,” stands in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City on Thursday. The piece completes Utah’s largest above-ground art installation and is a nod to the Northwest Quadrant’s commerce, logistics, manufacturing and distribution industries.
Salt Lake City’s newest public art piece, “Trade Balance,” stands in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City on Thursday. The piece completes Utah’s largest above-ground art installation and is a nod to the Northwest Quadrant’s commerce, logistics, manufacturing and distribution industries. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

While it's tilted at an angle, it earned the name balance because of the "engineering feat" that it took to get a large shipping container in the air, he adds. It took about 600 hours worth of planning and engineering led by Tri Square Fabrication President Glen Lais to ensure a 40-foot shipping container could end up on a pole without blowing over or collapsing.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said people may not understand the piece the first time they see it; however, he hopes it makes people think. And as they think, he believes they will see how it fits in the Northwest Quadrant, an area at the center of Utah's commerce, logistics, distribution and manufacturing industries.

"It really is a remarkable visualization of the Northwest Quadrant and its identity as ... the blue-collared piece of our state that keeps our state running," he said. "(It's) so important to industry, so important to our population and, of course, so important to our economy."

Steven Price welcomes attendees to the unveiling of Salt Lake City’s newest public art piece in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City on Thursday. Partnering with Utah-based Tri Square Fabrication, Price commissioned the custom fabrication of nine shipping containers, which have been installed throughout Salt Lake County.
Steven Price welcomes attendees to the unveiling of Salt Lake City’s newest public art piece in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City on Thursday. Partnering with Utah-based Tri Square Fabrication, Price commissioned the custom fabrication of nine shipping containers, which have been installed throughout Salt Lake County. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

There's also a balance between commerce and environment on this side of the city, Mendenhall adds. She said the Northwest Quadrant is filled with thousands of acres of "economic potential" and thousands of acres of "critical ecosystem" by the Great Salt Lake, which are both vital to the city's future.

It all depends on how you view it.

Price said he plans to keep adding more art pieces in Utah, pointing out Thursday that he's watched truckers stop and take photos of the other pieces tied to the Trade Balance project. He views art as a "very important" indicator of economic well-being, which commerce is a part of.

"Art is not a decoration, it's a destination," he said. "Art really is the ultimate state of the reflection of the state of our society and that's what this is."