In 2010, the City of Wilson purchased land to develop a park in downtown Wilson that would showcase the work of renowned local artist and inventor Vollis Simpson. The project was designed to revitalize downtown Wilson, spur economic growth and preserve Simpson’s iconic artworks.
The National Endowment for the Arts Visits the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park
City leaders established conservation headquarters in a downtown warehouse and 30 whirligigs were relocated from Simpson’s farm for restoration. Local workers were trained in museum-standard conservation techniques, and after years of meticulous care, the Whirligigs were permanently placed in the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Since the park’s opening in 2017, visitors have come from around the world to experience these stunning wind-powered artworks.
Community and Economic Impact
- A community task force raised more than $8 million from national, state and local sources for the restoration of the artwork and construction of the Whirligig Park.
- More than $25 million in private and public investment has been generated within a two-block radius of the park, including a new brewery, restaurants, residential apartments and opening soon, a new hotel.
- A museum honoring Vollis Simpson is currently being developed. The space will allow visitors an opportunity to learn more about Simpson, the conservation of his work and provide space for education and programming.
- The City of Wilson launched the North Carolina Whirligig Festival that attracts more than 40,000 people annually to celebrate Simpson’s legacy.
- Public engagement continues to grow at the park with year-round programming including musical performances, films, family events, and the Wilson Farmers and Artisans market.
- In partnership with A+ Schools of North Carolina, the park developed Kinetic Connections, STEAM-based learning activities that relate to N.C. education goals and standards for grades K–6. Public school students from across the state enjoy field trips and hands-on learning activities at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.
Vollis Simpson with his whirligigs