Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How big is a roadside colossus?
A: Our giant gnome is 13'6" and we expect that most of our giants will be between 9 feet and 15 feet tall. We want to create giants that are big enough to get attention, but that won't dwarf our existing architecture and landscape. The idea is to create a statue in scale with its surroundings.

Q: What are giants made from?
A: We could say "chutzpah!" but that would be only part of the truth. They are made of cement, hand-built over an armature made of steel and metal netting, stuffed with straw, rather like straw bale construction. Then they are painted with durable outdoor paint.

Q: How long does a giant last?
A giant can last almost forever if it is cared for, and they only need to be repainted once every five years. But if you want to remove it, you easily can. Once you have a giant, it's yours to do with what you wish.

Q: Aren't roadside giants the worst kind of kitsch?
What is kitsch? According to authoritative definitions, it's "pretentious bad taste" (New American Heritage Dictionary), "an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art" (Wikipedia), or "a victory of form over function" (Star-Spangled Kitsch). Similarly, terms like "schlock" or "tacky" mean objects that are poorly made with little real meaning or content.
That said, many contemporary artists, from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons, have appropriated kitsch imagery to create art that makes real statements about our times. That's what our giants do: we are using a vernacular American art form to make a real statement about who we are, where we live, and what we do (and have done). And they're original, and well-made. (Does that make them the best kind of kitsch?)

In April, 2011, our giant gnome was featured in "Marvels of the Roadside and Main Street America," a symposium sponsored by the Library of Congress--authoritative recognition that our roadside giants are genuine Americana.

If you're still bugged by the aesthetic of roadside colossi, an analogy could be seen in music. Roadside giants aren't classical, nor avant garde, they're more like popular folk music--think Brad Paisley, Sonic Youth, Dolly Parton, Flaming Lips, Lady Gaga and Woody Guthrie.

Q: But I don't want more people to come to the Rondout Valley!
Our local businesses and communities are struggling to make ends meet because we residents don't, or can't, spend enough money to support them. We don't want them to be replaced by Walmart, do we? One way to help them is to attract money from outside. Visitors are a great way to support our economy. Isn't it worth it to know that you or your neighbor will be able to stay locally employed? Also, in the past the Rondout Valley hosted thousands more tourists in the summer months, there's no reason why we can't do that now--we'll have the other six months of the year to ourselves!

Q: What will living in the Valley of the Giants do to my property values?
A strong, healthy community with vibrant cultural roots are a key factors to making a location attractive and desirable and our valley has been steadily losing its population of young people. The Valley of the Giants will help keep our communities, farms and businesses attractive and sustainable by helping them compete with corporate brands. Our local farms and businesses are important for creating the special sense of place that the Rondout Valley has.

Q: What's the big secret of the Valley of the Giants?
A: The big secret is--the giants aren't really that big! At 10 to 15 feet tall, they're way smaller than a tree, house, billboard or even most business signage (you don't think of this as Valley of the Billboards, do you?). It's really about the contrast of standing next to an oversized figure and who that figure is, and the power of numbers and a catchy name. If you don't like the Valley of the Giants it will be easy for you to pretty much ignore it. The giants won't be looming over towns the way that church steeples do. The Valley of the Giants is an ingenious low impact/high impact way to invigorate our community.

(updated 8/3/11)

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