Giant trolls come to life at Morton Arboretum

Danish artist Thomas Dambo works on one of his giant trolls that will be on display at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, starting June 22. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 14 in the Visitor Center's Ginkgo Cafe, Dambo will talk about his career making fun and inspirational pieces using reclaimed materials. Those who attend will find out how the concept for the Troll Hunt exhibit came to be and what message Dambo hopes viewers will take away.[]

LISLE – Those who have visited the Morton Arboretum lately have likely seen the emergence of 15- to 20-foot-tall wooden trolls rising up from the landscape.

The trolls are the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo as part of the Morton Arboretum's exhibit "Troll Hunt," which will open June 22. On June 14, Dambo will talk about his career making fun and inspirational pieces using reclaimed materials. The event is sold out.

The six trolls are all connected to the Morton Arboretum's landscape.

"They're all inspired by some part of the arboretum's landscape," said Sarah Sargent, manager of interpretation and exhibits at the Morton Arboretum. "We have a big meadow on the west side, and the troll is lying on its back. There's one that's hiding between two rows of bushes, so they're all very specific to a site."

There also is a message to Dambo's artwork that is in line with the arboretum's.

"His message is always about sustainability and not creating more trash," she said. "We really like that as part of our mission to make people aware of the environment. And we really like the story he was telling about trolls being the guardians of the forest and the idea that the trolls are emerging from the woods to see what humans are up to."

A team of people has been helping Dambo build the trolls, including volunteers and arboretum staff.

"We had over 60 people sign up to be volunteers in shifts to work on the trolls," Sargent said. "All six trolls are in place, but they are in various stages of being completed, so if people come to the arboretum now, you can see them. Some of them are nearly finished."

The trolls are spread throughout the arboretum, allowing people to explore parts with which they might not be familiar.

"It's a chance for people to go explore the arboretum and maybe find a corner they didn't know about," Sargent said. "I also like the fact that having them built here over eight weeks is an unusual opportunity for visitors to watch a sculpture being created. Usually we bring in an exhibit and we spend a week or two putting it up. This is really rare for people to actually be able to see the work in progress over the eight-week period."

The trolls will remain up indefinitely.

"We will leave them up as long as they are aesthetically pleasing and don't become structurally unsound," she said. "I expect them to be up for at least two years. We'll leave them up as long as we can."


If you go

WHAT: An Evening with the Artist: Thomas Dambo, creator of the Morton Arboretum's Troll Hunt

WHEN: 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 14

WHERE: Ginkgo Cafe at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle

INFO:, 630-719-2468