North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

Southern Living Magazine Honors NC Artist Vollis Simpson As a 'Hero of the New South'

The N.C. Arts Council nominated the 93-year-old artist, whose soaring sculptures have become iconic examples of vernacular art around the world. He is also a 2011 recipient of the North Carolina Award, the state's highest civilian honor.


Raleigh, NC -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/20/2012 -- North Carolina artist Vollis Simpson of Lucama is the recipient of Southern Living’s "Heroes of the New South Award" and will be featured in the March issue of the magazine.

Simpson, 93, whose soaring sculptures have become iconic examples of vernacular art around the world, won in the “Arts & Culture” category, which honors the creators and curators of the South’s imaginative spirit.

Simpson was nominated by the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources, last fall after receiving the North Carolina Award for Fine Arts for his ingenuity and awe-inspiring creativity. He is one of the state’s best known and most respected artists, recognized for colorful, wind-powered kinetic “whirligigs.” His sculptures are part of the permanent collections at numerous U.S. museums and other international sites.

“I don’t know if I’m an artist,” Simpson told Southern Living. “I just know I wake up every day and have to do something with my hands.”

The issue honoring Simpson will be on newsstands Friday, Feb. 24. Photographer Robbie Caponetto and reporter Erin Shaw Street traveled to Lucama from Birmingham, Ala., in December to interview Simpson and to tour the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. The park will feature 29 large-scale whirligigs currently being repaired, conserved, and relocated in downtown Wilson.

The park, a project of the City of Wilson, will honor the legacy of his work by conserving the one-of-a-kind collection and creating a more public presence for the dramatic works for the benefit of residents and visitors.

“As a folk art pioneer, he’s transformed the ordinary machines of Southern life into extraordinary works of art, recognized by the New York Times, and documented by PBS,” the article stated.

“The complexity and precise engineering of Vollis’ large scale works are remarkable, and just so much fun,” said Mary B. Regan, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council. “For someone who doesn’t see himself as an artist, Vollis has made a tremendous impact on the art world.”

Winners were chosen by Southern Living and a panel of jurors. William Ferris, Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, was one of four judges.

Southern Living awarded Honorable Mentions as “Heroes of the New South” to Ben Owen III, a sixth-generation potter from the Seagrove area, and Jeff Polish, who created The Monti, an oral narrative project from the Chapel Hill area.

Read the full story about Simpson at

Simpson was among the 2011 recipients of the North Carolina Award, the highest civilian honor given to a North Carolina resident or native. UNC-TV has aired the profile of Simpson produced for the North Carolina Awards ceremony on the program “North Carolina People”; view the video at For more information on the award presentation to Simpson, go to; to view photos from the ceremony, go to

About the North Carolina Arts Council
The North Carolina Arts Council works to make North Carolina The Creative State where a robust arts industry produces a creative economy, vibrant communities, children prepared for the 21st century and lives filled with discovery and learning. The Arts Council accomplishes this in partnership with artists and arts organizations, other organizations that use the arts to make their communities stronger and North Carolinians — young and old — who enjoy and participate in the arts. For more information, visit

About the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
The N.C. Arts Council is a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council and the State Archives.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources serves as a champion for North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy. To learn more, visit