Detroit Lakes will be home to the largest Troll in the United States

Photo by Robert Williams
International Recycle Artist Thomas Dambo, architect of the Trolls in DL project, discussed the history of his work and his book “Trash, Trolls and Treasure Hunts” with members of the media at Detroit Mountain on Thursday, May 16. One of Dambo’s installations will be constructed at Wannigan Regional Park in Frazee by mid-June.

By Robert Williams


Danish Recycle Art Exhibist Thomas Dambo held the first of two media-only meetings at Detroit Mountain on Thursday, May 16. Dambo discussed the history of his work, his book on the first 100 art installations “Trash, Trolls and Treasure Hunts,” and shared a bit of his secretive work in this area that will have six trolls, a golden rabbit and large mirror projects between the cities of Fargo, Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Perham.  ¶  Dambo’s global installations now exceed 130 sites across the world, spanning five continents, and the local project will contain the tallest troll in the United States standing 36-feet.  ¶  Dambo’s work in the area was brought here by Project 412.  ¶  “This is an incredible project we’re working on,” Project 412 Executive Director Amy Stearns said. “As an organization, we’re just trying to do a bunch of cool things and we have a tagline of DCS ‘Do Cool Stuff’ and this epitomizes doing cool stuff in a giant way.”  ¶  Dambo first visited the area a year ago at the invitation of Project 412 to discuss doing an art installation here.

Photo by Robert Williams
Danish artist Thomas Dambo met privately with media members from around the region to discuss his Troll project that has art installations ranging from Fargo to Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Perham.

“It’s really nice that Project 412 has trusted me in doing my mission and not put too many constraints on me because I think I do my best work when I get my artistic freedom,” Dambo said.

Secrecy is a big part of the project, especially the location of trolls currently under construction.

“We don’t want to spill the beans on what the project is because it’s meant to be exciting for people to go and find the trolls and experience for themselves,” Dambo said. “It’s like an adventure hike, nature exploration kind of project.”

The sculptures in Detroit Lakes, Fargo, Frazee and Perham are all tied together to help complete the entire story that accompanies the art ranging from clues where to find the next troll to interactive ingredients needed to help complete the story.

Dambo noted that some visitors may only visit one or two trolls, while the more adventurous will go for the entire story and find all the accompanying art installations.

Another piece will be installed in the downtown Detroit Lakes area or at City Park titled Alexa Elixir, based on Dambo’s wife Alexa. There will be all the information for visitors to go out and find the other sculptures in the exhibition with a narrative being that the visitors can help Alexa find all the the ingredients for her elixir, which is key to the whole story surrounding the trolls.

Part of the adventure contains small assignments that spread out to the sculptures in Fargo, Frazee and Perham.

“It’s not something you do in a couple of hours,” said Dambo. “It’s more like something people will do over a couple of weekends.”

Dambo stressed how he searches for great landscapes in the areas he visits and was very complimentary of the natural surroundings, especially the old wood forests here, something that has been missing in Denmark for hundreds of years. Getting out and exploring that nature is as important to the environmental meaning behind Dambo’s work.

“The sculptures are hidden in nature and you will have to walk to find them,” said Dambo. “You will not be able to see them from your car. You will have to go hiking or bike riding. Some of them will be easier to find for all ages and abilities, but some of them will be hard to get to because we want people to get outside, get some exercise, and experience, and open their eyes and their senses and go searching for something.”

Dambo takes pride in where he places his trolls in the environment. 

“As an artist, I’ve always thought it was really funny to hide an elephant in a haystack rather than to hide a needle,” he said. “Everybody is like, ‘I can easily find that giant sculpture,’ but no, you can’t, because I have hidden it really good.”

After his introduction, Dambo took nearly an hour of questions from reporters discussing many different topics, including searching local landfills for key trash to recycle into art ranging from Detroit Lakes to Bismarck, his book “Trash, Trolls and Treasure Hunts” and the stories behind his first 100 exhibits, to basic questions like why trolls?

“I come from Denmark and in Scandinavia we believe that the trolls come from Scandinavia,” he said. “They are part of hundreds of years old folklore, probably thousands of years, and they are part of Nordic mythology and historic Valhalla and the Vikings and they are part of our children’s stories.”

Trolls also provide an endless variety and an imagination full of potential pieces of art.

“I think it is awesome for me, as an artist, to have a medium to tell the stories that I tell that is an imaginary, fantastic creature, so I can decide what it looks like,” he said. “In the old stories, trolls are creatures that live in the forest and they represent nature. It aligns with the stories I tell. In my stories, the trolls are the unspoken voice of the plants and the animals.”

Dambo’s project would not be possible without the help of each community he visits. 

Stearns reported that Project 412 needed to fill 472 different volunteer time slots to help complete the project and did so thanks to approximately 250 volunteers.

“This community has stepped up in a big way,” she said.

The public will also have a chance to hear more from Dambo himself while he is here. 

The Historic Holmes Theatre will be hosting the Thomas Dambo Artist Talk on Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. The theatre is located at 806 Summit Avenue in Detroit Lakes.

The event is free and open to the public with no tickets or reserved seating, however, those planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP for planning purposes. That can be done by visiting:

For more information visit the following sites:;; and

The entire troll project is scheduled to be completed by Monday, June 10.