Over the last several months, one of the island’s most ambitious public art projects has been underway—the planning and construction of The Bainbridge Troll, a large-scale whimsical troll made of recycled (and donated) materials. The Bainbridge Troll is part of a larger project called the Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King, and was conceived and brought to the Pacific Northwest by Scan Design Foundation (SDF) in Seattle, who serves as the overall Project Lead and has provided, in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the majority of funding. The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District (BIMPRD) has served as site partner, with the Friends of the Bainbridge Troll (FOBT) serving as the local Project Manager. FOBT worked to secure local fiscal sponsorship through Arts and Humanities Bainbridge (AHB). The trolls are designed by Thomas Dambo, a native of Odense, Denmark. Bainbridge Island joins four other WA sites—West Seattle, City of Issaquah, Vashon Island, and Ballard, and one site in Portland, OR that will host a troll.
As a world renown recycle artist, Thomas Dambo is internationally known for art installations using recycled materials, the most recent (and notable) is the creation and installation of more than 100 giant whimsical trolls, which are located throughout the US and in several other countries. He created his first troll, “Hector the Protector” in 2014 on the Puerto Rican Island of Culebra, which was sadly destroyed by Hurricane Maria. In 2019, he returned to the same spot to create “Hector 2.0”. It all began at a young age for Thomas, learning the value and importance of recycling and sustainability from his parents, he created tree houses, games and other creations using free recycled materials. As a young adult, he drew upon his unlimited imagination and talent to become a street/graffiti artist, a rapper, music/stage performer, a builder and designer of scenography, and much more.
His current project, the larger-than-life troll sculptures, which are a part of his “The Trail of a Thousand Trolls”, are made entirely from recycled wood and other recycled materials. Through these large public art installations, Thomas tells the story of protecting nature and honoring the land and waterways, with a focus on understanding the impact of humans on life in watersheds and animal habitats. The project includes an additional focus on restoration and preservation of riparian habitats in a fun and imaginative way and provides the community—youth and adults alike—with an opportunity to learn, support and make a difference in protecting our environment. You can follow Thomas and his team on his vlog: Thomas Dambo – YouTube, or visit the Troll Map here: Trollmap — By Thomas Dambo
I visited Thomas onsite of the Bainbridge Troll to learn more about his process and inspiration. When he designs a troll, he often begins by personally posing in the position he’d like the troll to take, he then creates a likeness from the pose, which is sometimes modified as the building process proceeds. In the case of our troll, the position of the fingers was altered to allow visitors to stand in them, as if they’re being held by the troll. Thomas explained that he wanted our troll to encompass the idea of friendship, and bringing people together, “like a peacemaker” he said.
Thomas shared another aspect of our troll, that of its curly hair, which is made from apple tree branches collected over the last year or so by Tom, a Poulsbo resident who had been cutting/collecting them for their troll (which didn’t materialize). When Tom learned that Bainbridge would have the troll, he readily volunteered his time and his branches. This is the sort of community enthusiasm that Thomas loves about his job. “Its super fulfilling,” he said, “and I get to do all the things I love doing…and bring people together.”
Thomas is also a story teller (click here to see his published works), and each of his troll sculptures tell a story of their own, which he describes as “fairy tales or fables, but rooted in reality.” The Northwest Trolls: The Way of the Bird King will all have an underlying environmental story, and become another chapter in Thomas’s Trail of a Thousand Trolls story. This afternoon, Thomas announced our troll’s name, Pia the Peacekeeper.
Work began in earnest last week at Sakai Park on Madison Avenue, where local volunteers and Thomas’s team, began assembling the structural parts of the troll and dismantling hundreds of pallets to be used for the troll’s outer layers. The Bainbridge Troll features specific elements, such as moss, tree branches, shells, cedar, fir and driftwood—elements found in our local forests, farmland and seashore.
This afternoon, the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, in association with Arts & Humanities Bainbridge, the Parks District, significant donors and community partners, and many more were there for the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to officially celebrate the completion of The Bainbridge Troll. Fidelma McGinn of SDF, and Bainbridge Mayor Brenda Fantroy-Johnson, along with many others were on hand to cut the ribbon.
COME CELEBRATE THE BAINBRIDGE TROLL AT SISTERS’ CIDER HOUSE – “TROLL JUICE LAUNCH PARTY”!
Sisters’ Cider House is excited to help celebrate the completion of the troll with the launch of their Troll Juice hard cider. Grab some friends and stop by this evening (Friday, August 18th) from 5pm to closing to taste their newest libation! Feed the troll – bring your loose change and “feed the troll” via the troll donation birdhouse, which will be on site tonight.
A portion of each pour will be donated to the Friends of the Bainbridge Troll to help pay for the ongoing maintenance of the island’s newest art-based attraction.
COME WAKE THE BAINBRIDGE TROLL TOMORROW MORNING
(Saturday, August 19th at 8:19am)
Friends of the Bainbridge Troll invite everyone to come “Wake the Troll” tomorrow morning at 8:19am at Sakai Park. Come say “Good Morning Troll! Ring a bell or beat a drum. Greet our troll with music. Spread the word and go troll hunting!” The BI Youth Orchestra will also be there, playing “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.
The troll hunt is based on clues that will be released on the Friends of the Bainbridge Troll website and social media later this evening. Members of Friends of the Bainbridge Troll will be THERE to greet you between 8:19am and 10:30am tomorrow morning.
Visit their website at: Wake Up our Troll — Welcome Friends of the Bainbridge Troll or through social media at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1443373456476267 and https://www.instagram.com/friendsofthebainbridgetroll/ for details on the troll hunt.
PLEASE NOTE: There is no onsite parking for this event. Friends of the Bainbridge Troll encourages visitors to walk, bike, or use public transportation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the street from Sakai Park (on Madison Avenue) will kindly allow visitors for the “Wake the Troll” event only, to utilize their parking lot on Saturday only.
Scan Design Foundation (SDF), whose 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. The project also celebrates the network of cultural heritage between Coast Salish tribal communities and Danish and Scandinavian traditions. To learn more about that, visit the artist exchange facilitated by SDF with a Coast Salish artist from the Muckleshoot Tribe at: SDF Artist Exchange in Denmark: Thomas Dambo and the Muckleshoot Tribe | Scan Design Foundation Blog.
“As the presenter of the NW Trolls: Way of the Bird King exhibition, we have been working on this for over two years,” Fidelma McGinn, President of SDF told us via email. “I was originally introduced to Thomas and his work in 2020, but with the COVID pandemic, everything came to an abrupt stop. We re-started discussions again in 2021 and have been working ‘behind-the-scenes’ with him and his team for the past two years.” SDF invited Thomas to Washington State twice to scout locations, and once they had secured their site partners, they began to develop the concepts for each troll. The heads, feet and hands were built at Thomas’s workshop in Denmark, and then shipped over in June where they were picked up by their site partners and stored until Thomas and his team arrived in the PNW. As a huge Thomas Dambo fan, Fidelma has visited several of his works here in the US and in Denmark, she’s hoping to see more in the future, but notes “at 120 (and counting!) it is a lot!”
Originally, Bainbridge Island wasn’t on the site list, but Poulsbo was. In the fall of 2022, Terry Lande, Executive Director of BIMPRD received a call from Poulsbo saying they would no longer be able to host a troll and would Bainbridge Island be interested. From there, Terry and BIMPRD Commissioner Dawn Janow set up a call with Fidelma, and Dawn subsequently presented the idea of hosting a troll to the BIMPRD Board of Commissioners, receiving tremendous support, however they could not take on project management, only provide a host site. In the spring of 2023, Friends of the Bainbridge Troll was created to take on project management.
However, each site was tasked with raising additional ancillary funds to complete their individual projects. Additional fundraising for the Bainbridge Troll was done through support from AHB and a multitude of community sponsors and donors. BIMPRD participated in the initial site preparation, along with local volunteers and Thomas’s team, who then completed the project. Local islanders also donated all the building materials, lodging (for Thomas’s team), meals, snacks and transportation. In addition, the local Boy Scout Troop 1496 and Cub Scout Troop 4496 provided “Troll Patrol” at the site, by camping out each night during the construction process. “The community support has been just amazing,” Dawn told us. “Spreading the joy and building new relationships and partnerships has been like a gift to the island.”
Because the trolls are comprised of recycled materials, they are intended to be temporary installations, lasting a minimum of three years. However, with proper maintenance that lifespan can most likely be extended—the oldest Dambo troll is about eight years old. The Dambo team will provide general guidelines on basic upkeep and possibly re-engage should substantive repairs be needed. 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), Dawn explained. Friends of the Bainbridge Troll will update their website in the coming months when volunteers are needed for maintenance (you can stay up to date by following them on their Facebook page).
*Images courtesy of Friends of the Bainbridge Troll, Sisters’ Cider House and The Island Wanderer Blog
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