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AVAM Receives $50K State Grant To Conserve Giant Whirligig

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The American Visionary Art Museum has received a $50,000 state grant to preserve its giant whirligig, a 55-foot tall kinetic sculpture located outside the museum.

North Carolina artist Vollis Simpson made the wind-powered sculpture from recycled industrial materials, a craft the former farm machinery repairman became synonymous with in his hometown of Wilson, where 30 of his works are on display in a park.

Simpson and his two sons traveled to the museum the year it opened, in 1995, to install the sculpture, named "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

"The Giant Whirligig is synonymous with AVAM and has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors from across our country and the world who have delighted by its bright dancing iconic figures - cats, birds, angels and stars - brought to life through Vollis' wonderful imagination and lay engineering prowess and his unique art," said AVAM Founder and Director Rebecca Hoffberger said in a press release Monday.

With grant funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, the whirligig will be disassembled, documented and shipped to conservationists at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum in Wilson.

"The main 'lattice boom' from which the sculptural components are attached and suspended will be sent for conservation to the Barrett & Sons Coatings Inc. in Elkridge, Maryland, who will also environmentally conserve it's central pole on site," the museum said.

The conversation process is expected to last until early April, after which the sculpture will be reinstalled in its same position outside the museum.

According to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Simpson continued making his sculptures until a few months before his death in 2013 at the age of 94.

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