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Visionary Artist & Whirligig Creator, Vollis Simpson, Dead At 94

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There are things that make Baltimore unlike any other city. One of those is the American Visionary Art Museum.

But Mike Schuh brings us sad news from downtown.

At AVAM on opening day 18 years ago, Vollis Simpson is the second person through the door.

“Vollis Simpson was a farmer, a house mover and a genius engineer. And he said, ‘I had a lot of junk and I had to do something with it,'” said Rebecca Hoffberger, AVAM Founder.

What he did for AVAM Founder Rebecca Hoffberger was to create a signature piece for the new museum. It’s his largest–three tons of whirligig.

At 94, Vollis Simpson died not far from his workshop.

He created in North Carolina, his fields full of windmills and whirligigs. He didn’t like to travel, but did like hard work.

“When I got something to do, I work all day,” he said.

“He came here four times. He even had Thanksgiving with me here. He just felt the love here,” said Hoffberger.

His last visit involved six weeks in a Baltimore hospital, where he received a new experimental heart valve. It worked fine, his other parts just wore out.

Our Marty Bass traveled to his workshop and came home with an eight-foot tall whirligig.

“How did you develop this style of art? He said it’s not necessarily art, it’s a way for me to see the wind. He was just into the wind,” Bass explained.

“I miss him terribly,” said Hoffberger.

Hoffberger puts him in the class of artist who will still be talked about a hundred years from now.

“You know very few of us figure out how to make people happy at that scale in this life. He figured out a way to make people happy even for many lives to come,” she said.

“Mother Teresa said we can do no great things, only small things with great love. Vollis managed to do a lot of great things with great love,” Hoffberger continued.

In November, near his hometown in North Carolina, a park will open that contains 30 of his whirligigs.

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