Park Opening Coming Soon

Prepare to be awed at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park!

Experience the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park:

Where Art and Science Are Spun as One

Imagine a place where vibrant color, dynamic motion, and rhythmic sound dazzle the senses, a public park and outdoor museum where local community and international visitors alike can gather around the iconic, monumental, wind-powered sculptures of world-renowned artist and engineer Vollis Simpson. This one-of-a-kind art park in the heart of Historic Downtown Wilson, NC – 301 S. Goldsboro Street – will provide fascinating artistic, educational, and recreational opportunities at the intersection of art and science. We invite you to explore our vision and to join the effort to realize this significant creative placemaking and arts-driven economic development project.

Help us make this vision a reality. Phase 1 of the park is underway and is scheduled to be complete by end of Summer 2014.. Your donation will help us reach our goal of completing the park. Donations are fully tax-deductible.


The Artist

Vollis Simpson

Vollis Simpson never called himself an artist, but the thousands of people who have visited his astounding whirligig field in Wilson County, North Carolina, certainly do.  Towering fifty feet or more above ground, and extending nearly as far outwards into space, the more than thirty monumental whirligigs erected in his field demonstrate the power of individual vision coupled with a traditional art form. These compelling, nationally recognized assemblages have found their way from a crossroads in rural North Carolina to international art collections and even into a popular window installation at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store, testifying to their wide-ranging appeal and their abiding influence on his peers as well as younger generations of artists and engineers. Now they will find a home in the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Historic Downtown Wilson, where they will delight visitors young and old from far and wide.

After a lifetime repairing machinery and moving houses, Simpson found himself at age 65 with spare time and many, many spare parts.  Rather than “sit around and watch TV,” Simpson eyed his collection, remembered a windmill he constructed during World War II, and began to build.  Using some of the same rigs he’d developed for moving houses, Simpson began constructing enormous windmills in his yard.  They did not resemble the working windmills of grinding or irrigation use, but referenced the concepts of weather vanes and handcrafted whirligigs that are still seen locally on houses, fence posts and barns.  Simpson’s windmills embody folklorist Henry Glassie’s observation of a common folk artists’ practice of miniaturizing or “super-sizing” objects drawn from their workaday lives.  Vollis Simpson was taken with the gargantuan.

We will all miss Vollis Simpson, who died on May 31, 2013 at the age of 94. A dedicated maker, Simpson continued working almost daily in his shop until about six months before his death.


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The Story

Whirligig sculptures created by local, internationally renowned artist Vollis Simpson will be the centerpiece for a new world-class downtown park anchoring an industrial artisan district in Historic Downtown Wilson,NC. This energetic cultural and educational venue will serve as a global tourist destination and a community living room, as well as a model for economic development and downtown revitalization.

A dedicated maker, Vollis  Simpson, maintained the whirligigs on his farm even into his early nineties. Realizing that without repair, conservation, and timely maintenance his creations would eventually fall apart, he embraced the dynamic public-private partnership created to save these monumental, beloved pieces and preserve their legacy.

By leveraging Wilson’s internationally-known cultural asset into an economic engine of entrepreneurial job creation and tourism, the Wilson community will remake its Historic Downtown into a vibrant, lively hub. The Whirligig Park is the catalyst needed to propel Wilson into 21st century competitiveness and quality of place.


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The Vollis Simpson Story

The City of Wilson

Located at the crossroads of southern charm and modern innovation, Historic Downtown Wilson beckons visitors and businesses alike to stop by and stay awhile.

Lining the avenues of the historically-preserved business district, quaint architecture blends the visions and fragrances of yesteryear with the inspiration of tomorrow. Weathered brick tobacco warehouses, “five & dime” stores and a Classical Revival courthouse share newly renovated street space and signage with today’s boutique shoppes, regional business incubator and burgeoning arts community.

Once heralded as “The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market,” Wilson, NC is now a thriving city of almost 50,000 people that has successfully recruited new businesses to replace the lost tobacco revenue. Wilson is now implementing a 20-year Strategic Plan that includes arts-driven economic development. Looking around at its community assets, the city recognized that its number one tourist attraction—Vollis Simpson’s “Whirligig Farm”— would benefit merchants and businesses much more, and better survive the elements, if it were located downtown. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, combined with other downtown cultural institutions, will give Historic Downtown Wilson a critical mass of year-round destinations.


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The Vollis Simpson Story

The Park


Designed by award-winning landscape architecture firm Lappas+Havener, PA, the two-acre park will feature 31 of Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs—including some of the largest in his life’s work.

Visitors will never be at a loss for something to do at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. A central lawn amphitheater faces a performance stage, where everything from music to poetry slams will engage audiences. The park shelter will host a Farmer’s Market, craft markets, educational programs, and family fun activities. The interactive water feature in the entrance plaza will keep the kids cool on sunny days. Benches will invite picnicking, reading, or just enjoying art and nature. Use a phone app or the printed brochure to tour the whirligigs, sustainable storm water structure, and native plant gardens. Practice Tai Chi, have a wedding or family reunion, play flashlight tag among the reflective whirligigs—the possibilities are endless!

The Whirligig Park will be constructed in three phases, beginning with Phase 1 in the fall of 2013. Most exciting of all…five of Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs have been installed, including the 55′ long and 40 some feet high V. Simpson whirligig…to give the community a preview of what is to come in the later phases.

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