North Carolina folk artist Vollis Simpson didn’t start creating his whimsical sculptures until he retired. Making use of his skills as a mechanic and using rigs he developed as a house mover, Simpson began creating huge kinetic sculptures out of scrap metal. The creations were based on weather vanes and handcrafted “whirligigs” that could be found on barns and in yards across the South.
Simpson’s art has been widely recognized. Four of his whirligigs were displayed in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games. Museums from the North Carolina Art Museum to the Folk Art Museum in New York City have displayed his sculptures.
Simpson passed away in May 2013, at the age of 94. A month later the North Carolina House and Senate designated his whirligigs as the State Art of North Carolina.
The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park was opened in December 2017. The park has about 60 of the colorful whirligigs, which were relocated from fields of Simpson’s farm. It can be almost hypnotic to watch the many moving parts slowly rotate in the wind. We visited on a sunny day, but the park has special lighting so that at night the many reflectors attached to the sculptures catch the light and recreate the effect of car lights reflecting off the whirligigs as they drove past in the dark.