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Arts

The 55-foot-tall sculpture at Baltimore’s AVAM is getting a face-lift thanks to a $50,000 conservation grant

If you walk or drive by the American Visionary Art Museum this week and notice something is missing, don’t be alarmed. There hasn’t been an art heist.

The museum’s signature 55-foot-tall outdoor piece, known as the “giant whirligig,” is coming down for conservation, starting Monday. The process, which will give some much-needed maintenance to the sculpture, is being funded by a $50,000 grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.

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The sculpture has been in place since 1995, when it was installed by North Carolina farmer and visionary artist Vollis Simpson. At the time, it was the artist’s largest whirligig design and took a year to build and a day and a half to put in place. Simpson, who died in 2013, “designed the work to be observed dancing in the wind from ground level, eye level on AVAM’s cafe balcony, and from atop on Federal Hill Park benches,” according to a joint news release from the museum and the arts council.

The 3-ton whirligig has a lot of moving pieces, so to speak. The wind-driven kinetic sculpture featuring windmills, cats, ducks, an airplane, angels, bicycle wheels and other intricacies is being dismantled and carefully crated for conservation in two locations.

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The main “lattice boom” or 40-foot pole that balances the sculpture is being sent to Elkridge for a new coat of paint, among other updates. The aluminum whirligig pieces that rest atop it will travel to the conservation studios at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum in Wilson, N.C.

Both components will return to the AVAM in early April looking “like new,” said AVAM spokesperson Greg Tucker.


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