The trolls have arrived!

Published 10:49 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

Anyone who has passed under the bridge on Mill Street in downtown Farmville since last Friday has probably noticed that three creatures have taken up residency there. On one side resides a large troll, and on the other side are two troll children.

The trio came to life through the artistic talents of Audrey Sullivan, the founder of Red Door 104, a studio/gallery space on North Main Street.

“I’ve been wanting to paint under here since I moved here,” she said, while standing under the bridge.

Audrey Sullivan

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Originally, there were no plans for these creatures to come to town.

“Oddly enough, I actually had another mural completely planned and drawn up,” Sullivan said, “and the High Bridge people approved it, and we were ready to go when Mel (Smith), who owns the Mill building … Mel came into my studio to visit me one day, and we were chatting about it, and he actually said, ‘Wow, you know, it really needs a troll.’”

Sullivan said she instantly knew he was right.

“‘That’s a better idea than the one I had,’” she said she told him. “So, I’ve got to give the man credit — it was his idea.”

Daniel Jordan, with High Bridge Trail State Park, agreed that it was a good idea for that location, and Sullivan busied herself with making it a reality.

She worked on a design with a simple guideline.

“They just asked me not to make ‘em too scary, because this is owned by the High Bridge,” she said.

Sullivan noted she has been working on the concept drawings of the trolls for probably a month or two.

“But it’s taken time to plan it and schedule it, and I have a business to run, so I literally closed for two days,” she said. “I said, ‘You know what, the weather’s nice, it’s just time to do it.’”

As she was doing the project for free, James McDilda, a contractor with MCD, Inc., agreed to powerwash, for free, both walls on the underside of the bridge. This proved crucial to Sullivan being able to paint on them at all, giving her a clean slate to work with, pitted and bumpy though it is.

She called up Town Manager Gerald Spates, asking him for some help.

“I said, ‘Could you close the street? This is when I’ll be there,’” she said. “They came down, closed the street off for me. I pulled my car in, played some really loud rock ’n’ roll under the bridge for a couple days, and I had some fun.”

The two troll paintings took her seven hours to produce. Avoiding the rain during the morning of Sept. 13, she worked from 4-6 p.m. The next day, she worked from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

She covered each wall of the bridge with a gray primer and then used acrylic paint to create the trolls.

“It tends to sort of plasticize when it dries, and it should do just fine on the wall,” she said.

The trolls immediately began drawing attention as word spread about them on social media. Just prior to Sullivan arriving at the bridge to share how the paintings came to be, Dayna Jae Southall Stanley and Warren Baum had dropped by to get a photo with them.

“I think they’re amazing,” said Stanley, who grew up in the area and was back visiting. To Sullivan, she said, “I don’t know what inspired you to do it, but it’s awesome.”

Sullivan is hoping to involve some inspiration from people in the community when it comes to naming the trolls.

“We’re thinking that we need a contest to name them,” she said.

Further expanding the scope of her creation, there will soon be street signs heralding the presence of the trolls.

“I found these really cool signs online, and they’re like metal street signs, and its says, ‘Troll bridge ahead. Please don’t feed the trolls.’”

She said she called Farmville Printing asking if they could produce the message on metal signs, and they said they could.

So, going to Spates again, “I said, ‘Gerry, would the town pay for two of these?’ And he said, ‘Sure, tell them to send me the bill.’ So, they’re going to be showing up on either end of the bridge.”

When it comes to things that make Farmville an exciting place to live, work and play, a troll bridge on Mill Street can now be added to the list.