Jeanne Colin is an Atlanta artist who works primarily in paints, and has more recently began incorporating art with community organizing. The goal of the project in Iceland is to create an annual festival centered around trolls and their mythology rooted in the area. She hopes that making trolls a more prominent feature within the town will bring about social and economic benefits. Working with resident artists and locals, she has developed many trolls themed installations and festival activities. The general idea is that the festival and its competitions will unify the community, permanent installations such as murals and sculptures will increase tourism and residency, and that the mythology of trolls will give locals a medium through which they can address tensions. Traditionally trolls have been treated as a very real part of life in Iceland. Trolls are held responsible for a variety of behaviors and happenings. Jeanne believes that bringing trolls back to the forefront in this strained community will help reestablish a connection to tradition and boost communication between community members.
I was approached to assist with this project shortly after completing my first year of C&SC. Jeanne was primarily looking for advice related to implementation. I found that much of the advice that I provided was fairly well received, but not as easy for her to follow as she may have anticipated. As an example, her original goal for summer 2017 included the installation of one five-meter troll sculpture along with several one meter trolls along the road side. This endeavor is complicated by the fact that the ground is only warm enough for such construction during the peak summer months. Additionally, there are only a very small handful of individuals who operate the machinery necessary to move the rocks needed for the structure. The resources will be stretched thin with absolutely no guarantee that they will be available when needed. My immediate feedback was that she split the instillation between two summers to increase the chances of resource availability. I also feel that scheduling major construction for the first two festivals helps to better establish the event as an annual occurrence.
Much of the rest of my feedback was based in ecological thinking. I encouraged her to consider conducting more research before solidifying her plans. While the community faces struggles typical of small communities with traditional skill-based economies, her assumptions about how to alleviate this stress were quite broad. Even the assumption that tourism would prove beneficial is short sighted.
Providing consultation on this project seemed to highlight the ways in which people appear open to change, and freeze up once they realize how much work that change would entail. I know that in many ways she was bound by the promises she had already made to grantors, artists, and locals alike. What I presented would not fit into her proposed timeline. I stuck to my guns, but tried to adjust my recommendations such that they were achievable and more align with her goals.
Update: In continuing to assist with the implementation of this plan, I’ve begun recruiting muralists and sculptors from the Atlanta area.