Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Roadtrip - Wilson, North Carolina The Whirligigs of Vollis Simpson

Years ago I learned about Vollis Simpson's Whirligigs in an issue of Our State Magazine, and it was love at first sight.  In 2011, when Ken and I visited the creations in his field, I was blown away by their size, their number; and the overwhelming sensory experience of being in their presence.  In hindsight, I'm grateful that we made time for that visit.  Mr. Simpson passed away last year, and it's one that we'll never be able to repeat in quite the same way.

Fortunately, a group of passionate and dedicated whirligig lovers is working to restore and display Mr. Simpson's creations in Historic Downtown Wilson, North Carolina.  I visited the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park on my way home from the East Carolina University Metals Symposium

Luckily for me, it was a blustery day, and the first five restored whirligigs were at peak performance.  The largest of this group is "The V. Simpson", and it measures 55 feet long and 40 feet high.  You have to see it in person to appreciate the sights, sounds, and especially the feeling of standing in its shifting shadows.

While in Wilson, I also visited the conservation site for the whirligigs  Their yard is overflowing with good things to come and large murals that honor the maker and the restoration project. 

Kudos to all who are involved in saving these treasures for future generations!

The following photos show a few of the Whirligigs in 2011 in their natural habitat.


  1. Oh I SO wish I could have met you when I lived in Wilson! I didn't know anyone who was into arts or crafts! Now I live in Atlanta, and am still having trouble meeting folks! Glad you enjoyed your visit to Wilson and the whirlygigs!

  2. I completely understand, Maureen. There are definitely challenges in being the new kid. I tend to be outgoing, and I was surprised when I experienced the same after moving to North Carolina ten years ago. I finally resorted to responding to a classified ad placed by a group that was working through the book, "The Artists Way". At the time, I wasn't even calling myself an artist, yet somehow it just felt right. That single experienced opened so many doors for me, and I've made lifetime friends as a result. Don't give up. Keep putting yourself out there, and it will all click into place when you least expect it. :-)

  3. Is the park open year round? I had a hard time trying to figure that out

  4. Is the park open year round? I was thinking about making the trip as I'm a big fan of this type of thing.

  5. Hi Rich, the park is an open air space, and it is open year round. Here's the web address for more information... http://www.wilsonwhirligigpark.org/ ... and here are a few more details about Mr. Simpson and the original site of his whirligigs... http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/offthemap/html/travelogue_artist_7.htm?true . Hope this helps and that you enjoy your visit! :-)