A festive, colorful display of folk art is coming to downtown Wilson. The new public park will include 29 large-scale whirligigs created by internationally renowned local artist Vollis Simpson. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park (map, directions) will be located on a two-acre lot bordered by Goldsboro, Douglas and South streets. The creation of Whirligig Park will transform Wilson's downtown and contribute to its revitalization efforts as well as anchor the development of an industrial artisan district. This project is strategically aligned with community’s vision for redevelopment and economic development. The park will be a major destination for cultural visitors worldwide and a uniquely wonderful gathering place and public green space for Wilson County.
“These whirligigs will go right where an old tobacco warehouse used to be,” said Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose. “I think it’s great that an attraction like this will drive new business development in downtown Wilson.”
Secretary Linda A. Carlisle of the NC Department of Cultural Resources has said, "Cultural economic development means leveraging local creative talents and creative assets to invigorate community prosperity and growth. Creativity means business in North Caronia, and through attractions like this, Wilson is poised to reap the benefits. Wilson's vision can influence business development decisions, inspire downtown revitalization and historic preservation, build community pride of place and stimulate the growth of more creative businesses."
Simpson is one of the state’s most recognized artists. His creations have been included in exhibits worldwide, including at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Baltimore Visionary Art Museum and the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh. Four of Simpson’s whirligigs are on permanent outdoor display in Atlanta at the site that hosted the 1996 Olympics. The 92-year old artisan is a life-long Wilson County resident. Simpson’s work has been extensively discussed and covered in films, books and articles. He was most recently profiled in The New York Times in April, 2010.
The project is collaborative in nature and is guided by a National Advisory Board and a 25 member local Project Planning Committee in partnership with Wilson Downtown Properties, Wilson Downtown Development Corporation, the City of Wilson, the North Carolina Arts Council, and many others. Recently, the project has been recognized by receiving prestigious grants from various foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts.