Giant Trolls Are Coming to Ninigret Park
Tourism officials hope a Danish artist's handiworks will spur the creation of a statewide public art trail.
Trolls are coming to South County.
Don’t be alarmed: They’re not the oversized, dim-witted ogres you may remember from fairy tales and The Lord of the Rings books.
Rather, these trolls are gentle giants, hulking creatures crafted from scrap wood and old wooden pallets who lure visitors with their magical presence and playful poses.
They’re the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo, and if everything goes as planned, two of them will call Ninigret Park home next year in what South County Tourism Council President Louise Bishop hopes is the beginning of a public art trail that stretches throughout the state.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re coming,” she says.
Dambo made his first troll — Hector the Protector — on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra in 2014. Bishop read an article about him in 2019 and wondered if they could bring something similar to Rhode Island.
“I was enamored,” Bishop says. “I thought, ‘I wonder if that could actually happen where we are?’”
One hundred of Dambo’s trolls are scattered throughout the globe in seventeen countries. One sits on the banks of a lake, lazily fishing; two lie on their backs, gazing up at the stars; one sits cross-legged, hugging the trunk of a tree; and some, like Hector the Protector, look out to the sea, holding a lantern to light the way for visitors.
Dambo will visit Ninigret in May to look at the area and come up with ideas for the trolls. (All of his trolls have back stories and lore associated with them.) The Charlestown park makes a prime location, Bishop says, with its 227 acres, open space and plenty of parking.
She envisions a grand entryway, maybe decorated with greenery, with local shells and stones lining the paths to the statues. Pamphlets with QR codes would show the art trail and other points of interest along the way. Bishop has already reached out to Bob Billington, president and CEO of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, who’s also on board.
“Our whole goal is to start in South County and move into the state and up to Blackstone Valley,” she says. “We hope it will create an economic driver of people coming for tourism and overnights.”
A $50,000 state placemaking grant, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, is paving the way for the project.
Bishop is hopeful the trolls will draw visitors to South County and beyond. After installing five Dambo trolls on its grounds, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens saw a record-breaking number of visitors in 2021.
The Ninigret Park project is still in the beginning stages, but from what she’s seen so far, Bishop is encouraged.
“Everyone is coming to the table on this and I’m thrilled.”
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