Friday, July 27, 2018

Whirligig Park

Vollis Simpson, born 1919 to a farming family near Wilson, North Carolina, liked machinery more than growing plants. He fixed the tractors and many other kinds of equipment needed (except for four years during World War II) until he retired in the mid-1980s.

Then he began making huge windmills in his yard.

The public (who insisted on calling the windmills whirligigs) and later the art world found him. Simpson installed four whirligigs in downtown Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and was commissioned to create a 55’ tall one for the Museum of American Visionary Art in Baltimore.

In 2010, people in Wilson began to develop a park to hold the whirligigs and broke ground in fall 2013, just a few months after Simpson died at age 94. The park had its grand opening in November 2017.

Here are my not-always-great photos of a few of the thirty whirligigs.

The park itself is pretty great as a public space, including a stage for performances and a lawn for seating, plus a covered pavilion for farmers markets or other gatherings. The whirligigs surround the central open area, a reference to the pond that centered the whirligigs in their original locations on Simpson’s farm.

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park has a great website with lots more information and videos.

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