Utah Artist Draws National Attention With "Gifts From Atheists, Mormons, and Muslims"

May 9, 2017

When Utah artist Mikey Kettinger designed “Gifts from Atheists, Mormons, and Muslims,” he hoped he could share a message of warmth with his community, but he didn’t know how far that message would spread.

When “Gifts from Atheists, Mormons, and Muslims,” debuted, Sean Dolan of the Herald Journal wrote an article about it. Since being published, it’s been picked up by other papers across the nation, including The Salt Lake Tribune, The Miami Herald, and US News and World Report. 

For Kettinger, the idea was simple: give some of the faiths that people feel the most coldly towards a chance to show some warmth. His idea was based on data from the Pew Research Center. 

“So those are the ones that are on the bottom of what they call the feeling thermometer, where they ask people: rate everybody in terms of how warm or cold you feel toward them, as a metaphor. And atheists, muslims and mormons are on the bottom," Kettinger said. "So those are the three I’m trying to give an opportunity to do outreach to show people that they’re not evil, and they’re just humans like everybody else, and there’s no reason to feel coldly toward them.”

His volunteers gave offerings of food to the guests at the show. Kettinger said he thinks this piece gained national attention for two reasons: first, it created a positive dialogue in a place where some people believe it doesn’t happen. It showcased diversity in a state that some see as being devoid of culture beyond the LDS church. 

“I think that makes it interesting to people who have a preconceived notion of what’s happening in Utah from afar. They’ve never been here, and they’re probably never going to be here," Kettinger said. "But their perception then gets questioned, and turned upside down, so that then becomes really interesting to them.”

Secondly, he said that Dolan’s story was well-written and really captured the message he wanted to share. 

“Well with that project and with all my projects, I want people to think about information, and think about facts, and think about how they treat each other. And I hope that when they do that, when you look at a scientific study, or a survey, that you take that information, you interpret it, and you analyze it for yourself," Kettinger said. "And I hope that when people deal with my projects, that they then want to treat people in a positive way after the fact.”