I called Rebecca Hoffberger after hearing that visionary artist Vollis Simpson, creator of AVAM’s signature whirligig, had passed away at the age of 94. Hoffberger had just returned from the funeral, driving all day to North Carolina and back, but she was definitely in the mood to talk about Simpson, a longtime friend.
“After seeing his whirligigs, I couldn’t imagine anything else as the centerpiece of our campus,” said Hoffberger, who puts Simpson’s Whirligig Farm in North Carolina on a par with Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers and Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain. “He’s one of the three greats in America, when it comes to scale and original production.”
Hoffberger said Simpson was beloved in his home state, and people lined up to get into the funeral. Many in attendance talked about being profoundly moved by Simpson’s work, and they also spoke of his integrity and keen sense of humor. “He seemed to get happier and happier as he got older,” said Hoffberger. “He was a great artist and a great man.”
Next time you're in Federal Hill, stop by AVAM and pay your respects. And if you're heading south later this year, Simpson’s North Carolina whirligigs are being restored and moved to an art park in Wilson, not far from where he lived. The park will open sometime this fall.