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June 12, 2023

Enormous troll sculpture promoting conservation to appear in New Jersey this month

Thomas Dambo, a climate activist and sculptor, will unveil 'Big Rusty' — who is made of recycled materials — in Burlington County on June 28

Arts & Culture Sculpture
thomas dambo sculpture.jpg Provided image/Sideways Inc.

One of Thomas Dambo's previous pieces, pictured above, was created for a 2018 Breckenridge, Colorado arts festival.

A giant troll will appear in Burlington County, New Jersey, at the end of June — but luckily, there's no chance of it stomping on you.

That's because "Big Rusty" is a sculpture made of recycled industrial waste, created by artist Thomas Dambo to promote conservation and sustainability.

Dambo will unveil the piece in Hainesport off Route 38 near South Branch Rancocas Creek on Wednesday, June 28 to launch a U.S. tour for his largest sculpture project yet, "The Way of the Bird King." Over the course of the tour, Dambo and his team of 22 builders will construct 10 sculptures using recycled materials from over 1,000 pallets. Each piece aims to educate visitors about the human impact on watersheds and animal habitats and to promote dialogue on preservation.

Based in Copenhagen, Dambo has already created over 100 large-scale, recycled troll installations all over the world. His creatures have been spotted in the woods of France, Chile, Germany, China and South Korea, as well as various U.S. states. They often come with backstories made up by the artist.

"I like to think that my art can help change people's perspective from trash being something that has no value to something that has a big value," he told NPR in 2021. 

A troll sculpture made of recycled materials in Jackson Hole, WyomingProvided image/Sideways Inc.

Another troll sculpture in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Thomas Dambo and three other builders work on a troll sculpture in DenmarkProvided image/Sideways Inc.

Thomas Dambo and his team work on a sculpture in Denmark.

In addition to his giant trolls, Dambo is also known for his long-running "Happy City Birds" project, an idea born during his street-art years. Since 2006, he has created and installed over 3,500 birdhouses made from scrap wood, recycled materials and incorrectly toned paint donated by the Danish company Dyrup. They now adorn streets and trees in his native Copenhagen and other cities around the world.

After the launch of Big Rusty, Dambo will travel to Vermont, Michigan and various spots along the West Coast for his tour. His final installation will be in Seattle, to be unveiled on Sept. 18.

This piece has been updated with more specific location details of the Big Rusty site.

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