Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
Vollis Simpson (1919-2013) created a whimsical environment of intricate, whirling whirligigs eleven miles outside of the City of Wilson in North Carolina. They whirl and turn and amaze. Simpson was a skilled creator and inventor; his first whirligig, according to the American Visionary Art Museum, came about during World War II, when Simpson transformed a washing machine. He worked hard, building equipment for house moving and opening a repair shop on his property. Over time, he built larger and larger whirligigs until his property held constructions as tall as 40 to 50 feet and more. Powered by the wind, the whirling spectacles began to attract art lovers and tourists. The reflective material lights up in the moonlight or in the headlights of a passing car, creating quite a spectacle. Many became familiar with Simpson’s work when four of his whirligigs were installed in downtown Atlanta for the 1995 Olympic games Today, self-taught artist Vollis Simpson is internationally recognized as an important American artist.
Organizers of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park approached Kohler Foundation about partnering to complete the enormous project to conserve the whirligigs. Ownership of 31 large-scale whirligigs and about 50 smaller works transferred to Kohler Foundation to complete the restoration project. Kohler Foundation continued to use the existing highly skilled staff of conservation technicians, craftsmen, and artists, but took over the funding and management of the project. Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs are being installed in downtown Wilson, North Carolina where they will enhance the downtown and will contribute to the downtown revitalization currently taking place. The whirligigs have been gifted to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum.