The 32 whirligigs sculptor Vollis Simpson has created and erected on his Lucama, N.C., property since the early 1980s have fallen silent. Simpson, at age 91, is no longer able to climb as high as 50 feet to grease and maintain the metal parts that make a horse’s legs trot or a guitar player strum his instrument. “I’m not able to look after it now,” Simpson says. “I can’t climb. If I could climb, I wouldn’t let it go.”
But the community has a plan to save the sculptures. The city of Wilson, with the help of the North Carolina Arts Council and other partners, is raising money to buy, move and conserve the whirligigs, relocating them to a two-acre park by December 2012.
Simpson’s world-famous whirligigs can be found in the collections of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The grounds of his shop are more than a roadside attraction; they are a “wonderland of three-story-high farmers, automobiles, airplanes and whimsical animals,” as Charlotte Richardson explained in the feature profile of the artist in the June 2006 issue of AmericanStyle. To find out how you can help with the whirligig relocation project, visit www.ncarts.org.