For Scan Design Foundation (SDF) in Seattle, bringing giant trolls to the Pacific Northwest was a no-brainer. After all, their mission is to support and advance Danish American relations through cultural exchanges focused on environmental sustainability, and what better way to do that than with giant trolls. That’s where world-renowned Danish environmental artist and activist, Thomas Dambo comes in. Thomas, who is a native of Odense, Denmark, is considered the world’s leading recycle artist. He learned the importance of recycling and sustainability at a young age, and using his unlimited imagination, he’s spent his life expressing himself through music, street art, and scenic design. According to the short bio on SDF’s press release, “Dambo began his current journey of using recycled materials to create colorful art installations, building the foundation for his artwork today. Today, Dambo is known internationally for his larger-than-life troll sculptures that are a part of his project ‘The Trail of a Thousand Trolls’ that are all made from recycled wood. With 100 sculptures all over the world, these trolls have a life of their own. Dambo’s vision is to create art that inspires people to get into nature.”
Pre-covid, SDF began contacting municipalities around the PNW, making contact with 10 sites in their initial plan, one of which was Poulsbo. In the fall of 2022, Terry Lande, Executive Director of the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation Department (BIMPRD) received a call from Poulsbo saying they would no longer be able to host a troll and would Bainbridge Island be interested. Terry and BIMPRD Commissioner Dawn Janow set up a call with Fidelma McGinn, President of SDF to learn more about the project.
In the fall of 2022, Dawn presented the project to the BIMPRD Board of Commissioners, receiving tremendous support, however they could not take on project management but agreed to be the host site. “In the spring of 2023 Friends of the Bainbridge Troll was created to take on project management,” Dawn explained. “Friends of the Bainbridge Troll, working in concert with multiple local partners, is so excited to bring one of these incredible trolls to Bainbridge. Noteworthy-Bainbridge Island will get the very first of the WA state trolls!”
“Once upon a time in a happy forest, in the happiest tree lived the happiest creatures the world has ever known: The trolls.” -Poppy, ‘Trolls’*
Bainbridge joins four other WA sites—West Seattle, City of Issaquah, Vashon Island, Ballard— and one site in Portland, OR that will host a troll. The project, which is called the “Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King”, will be designed by Thomas and include the installation of large-scale whimsical trolls, “each with a specific part of an underlying environmental story,” Dawn said. “This project is the latest in Dambo’s global Troll installations that now exceed 100 sites across Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. The overall project is being managed by SDF. The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is providing major funding and is supporting communications outreach. Media partners include the Embassy of Denmark, Visit Seattle, Washington State Tourism and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.”
Dawn went on to explain that the project “celebrates the human experience of art by amplifying the network of cultural heritage between Coast Salish tribal communities* and Danish and Scandinavian traditions. It reinforces the shared values of environmental stewardship for watershed protection, restoration, and preservation of riparian habitats. It is hoped the PNW communities will benefit from public art sited within natural environments that will educate and deliver cross-cultural experiences.”
The funding for each of the six sites is provided by SDF and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, however each site is tasked with raising additional ancillary funds to the complete the project. Additional fundraising for the Bainbridge Troll is ongoing through support from their fiscal sponsor, Arts & Humanities Bainbridge (AHB).
“There has been some community concern that tax payer dollars are going toward this project, and that is not the case, the Bainbridge Troll will be privately funded,” Dawn said. “Each of the site partners have unique funding mechanisms and we are hoping our community is generous in their support. So far, Bainbridge is overwhelming in its volunteer support, used material donations, and enthusiasm.”
Each installation takes about two weeks (or 8-10 days), however this doesn’t include the pre-built elements, such as the troll head, hands and feet tubes, which are pre-built in Thomas’s workshop in Denmark. The parts have been shipped by container to Seattle, where they’re currently stored in an artist facility awaiting pick up from the site partners. The shape, structure, cladding and any decorations will all be built on site using mostly repurposed materials by a team of artists and a group of local volunteers.
The trolls will be primarily made from recycled materials, and Friends of the Bainbridge Troll put out a call for donations, which received fantastic support. “We have enough pallets, shingles, etc. to complete the troll,” Dawn said. “In addition, local lumber yards have generously donated the structural materials.”
Their call for volunteers was equally fantastic, Dawn noted, but they would love some additional help. Everything from building, donating materials, lodging, meals, snacks, transportation, social media, and more is happily accepted. If you’re interested in volunteering, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The trolls will be available for viewing for approximately three years. “By virtue of the recycled materials, the trolls are intended to be temporary installations for the public to enjoy for several years. Each site partner has committed to hosting the sculptures for a minimum of three years,” Dawn explained. “The Dambo team will provide some general guidelines about how to do basic maintenance, and possibly re-engage with them for more substantive repairs. There is not really a set time line and the trolls can exist as long as they are maintained. BIMPRD, with the help of Friends of the Bainbridge Troll volunteers will oversee maintenance (similar to playgrounds, trails, sports fields, etc. – another combination of volunteers and Parks).”
BAINBRIDGE TROLL EVENTS
- Saturday, August 5th, Friends of the Bainbridge Troll will be at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) Block Party with a super fun surprise! Swing on down to learn more about Thomas, the Trolls, and ways to get involved.
- Wednesday, August 16th from 6-8pm, there will be an artist talk and book signing at BIMA. This event will have limited seating and require a reservation. Additional details about this event will be forthcoming, follow Friends of Bainbridge Troll on Facebook and Instagram for updates: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1443373456476267 and https://www.instagram.com/friendsofthebainbridgetroll/
- Friday, August 18th, the Dambo team has tentatively set the unveiling – again, stay tuned as construction delays are possible. Updates will be posted on Friends of Bainbridge Troll’s social media sites.
THE BIG SURPRISE!
Where will the troll be located…that’s all part of the fun, almost no one knows! Once the troll is installed, a treasure hunt app and companion map will be available to help locals and visitors find the troll (again, follow them on FB/Instagram for forthcoming details). In addition, in the fall a geo-cashing app will be launched to help troll hunters explore Bainbridge Island.
“What is most exciting, personally, is that this project is forging new partnerships, fostering existing relationships and engaging people of all kinds to come together for something joyful,” Dawn said. “Using art, nature, whimsy, creativity, community, cross-cultural exchange, recycling, environmental awareness, educational opportunities, and a healthy dose of thinking LARGE is inspiring.”
*Although Bainbridge didn’t work directly with the local tribal communities, Thomas has been introduced to members of several tribal groups to consult with them about how best to integrate the shared values of protecting the PNW’s natural resources, Dawn noted. “For some sites more involved collaboration is being nurtured and will be factored into the creative process. For example, SDF facilitated Muckleshoot/Duwamish tribal member, John Halliday, and his wife Tobi Halliday, to travel to Denmark to spend time with Thomas on his farm outside of Copenhagen. More details on this will be forthcoming as the troll takes its final shape.”
*Images and logos provided by Friends of the Bainbridge Troll
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