Whirligig Project

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Project

Funding Received: 2011
Wilson, NC
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
March 12, 2012

The overall goal of The Whirligig Project is to save, preserve and leverage the uniquely authentic local asset of Vollis Simpson's visionary art work to create a world-class public space in the heart of Downtown Wilson, North Carolina. This new public space will be a catalyst for revitalization and downtown economic development. ArtPlace funds are supporting the repair and conservation of Simpson’s monumental kinetic sculptures, creating jobs in art conservation, funding the design of this placemaking venture and the development of future educational & programming opportunities.

Kimberly Van Dyk, Downtown Manager for the City of Wilson, Wilson Downtown Development and Wilson Downtown Properties, talks about the challenges and opportunities of getting Whirligig Park up and running. Just last week, a multi-month community design charrette process successfully concluded, resulting is a compelling conceptual design for the future Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

ARTPLACE: As you reflect on your work to date, what unexpected challenges have you encountered?

VAN DYK: The complexity and genius of Mr. Simpsons sculptures, the extent of their deterioration due to age & weather, and the extreme complexity in repairing and conserving these beautiful mammoth works of art.

ARTPLACE: Have you had any happy surprises in your work to date?

VAN DYK: When we first began this project, approximately 24 months ago, there were many in the local community who were not fans of the project. As we have persevered, we've had many successes in the project and we have won over the community. We now have hundreds of regular volunteers involved in the project, and our various community participation opportunities have brought out thousands to learn more and get involved.

ARTPLACE: Are there things you’ve learned in your work that others in the creative placemaking field can learn from?

VAN DYK: Even in a project meant to draw attention and involvement on a national scale, the effort must be place-based. By which I mean that it is critical that the project use what is authentic to a local community and be rooted in local involvement and engagement in as large and diverse of a community cross-section as possible.