But the 30 giant kinetic sculptures he created on his Wilson, North Carolina property brought in tourists and notoriety. Eventually they began to rust and deteriorate, and both Simpson and the community realized the whirligigs needed saving. Over the course of more than seven years, community members raised money, developed a plan and embarked in a fastidious conservation campaign to restore and reestablish the whirligigs in the newly opened Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.
Host Frank Stasio talks to Henry Walston, chairman of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum, and artist and conservator Juan Logan, about the park and how it is contributing to a much larger reimagining of Wilson.
Henry on Vollis Simpson's foray into whirligigs:
He began making the whirligigs when he was 65 years old, when he retired. In his earlier life, he had been a welder, he had worked on farm machinery, he was a house mover, he had a heavy-duty wrecker service. He actually bought old army surplus vehicles and turned them into wreckers. He was a guy who could do anything with his hands and he loved to improvise … I think when Vollis retired at age 65 he was not an individual that liked to sit around and watch TV, he wanted to be doing something. He said he wanted to have something for his hands to do. And he had accumulated all this "stuff," as he called it, in his shop. And he just started putting them together. He had no diagram drawn out, he just started building them. And then he'd keep adding stuff on.
Juan on learning from Vollis Simpson as an artist:
Henry on how the Vollis Simpson park is transforming the town: