Another place of interest I visited on my trip to Wilson was the warehouse workshop where the giant whirligigs made by Vollis Simpson are being worked on. A little bit of history — Vollis Simpson, born in 1919, one of 12 children, who lived on a farm in Wilson County, in Lucama, near Wilson was made famous by the gigantic whirligigs that he constructed and displayed on his farm. People came from far away to visit and see these works of art. He donated all of the pieces to the City of Wilson, and because many of the pieces were being destroyed by rust from the weather elements, they were taken to an old warehouse in the historic district for restoration. Vollis worked in the workshop nearly every day along with a crew of 16 doing the restoration work until about 6 months before he died at the age of 94 in May of 2013. One of the characteristics of these pieces is that he cut up road signs in small pieces and placed them at intervals on the metal an wood, so that when lights shown on them, they glowed like an amusement park. Wilson is building a Whirligig Park in that area of town which will become an attraction for visitors to the city. Most of the original pieces that they have been able to restore will be in the museum, but they are building exact duplicates of the ones that were in too much disrepair to be restored. The duplicate pieces are sold by the Art Council to help fund the Park project. Many pieces have been bought by businesses to adorn their properties, and some of the pieces were used in Atlanta when the Olympic games were there.
The pieces were awesome to look at, and to imagine what they looked like at night with car lights, or moonlight shining on them. If you want to learn more about this project, you can go to wilsonwhirligigpark.org.
Here are a few pictures I got from the brochure on the project:
From the first two pictures, you can see the size of the pieces. They had to be disassembled into smaller pieces in order to get them in the workshop. The last one is the warehouse workshop where they are being restored, and which we visited on Thursday.
Three of the pieces are in place in the park location, but I didn’t get any pictures of them. The park is being finished in phases as donations are available for the work, and the town will have a Whirligig Festival sometime later this year. There was an article on this in Our State Magazine sometime last year, but I don’t know which issue. I cleaned out most of my back issues this year and gave them to the thrift store. Wish I had kept that one. You can also go to Our State Magazine and click on the tab “Artists” and find the article that was in the magazine. It is copyrighted, so I can’t quote from it here.
Hope you enjoy, and one day will go to see these magnificent pieces of art.