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Chasing Windmills: Outsider Art Flourishes in North Carolina

Thousands of curious visitors have made the trek out to Lucama, North Carolina.  The tiny rural town, home to just over a thousand people, has become an unlikely tourist attraction. The visitors come to see the whirligigs.  These are giant windmills, measuring up to six stories high and 50 feet wide, with hundreds of small moving parts. 

Vollis Simpson built these massive sculptures.  He was 65 years old when he started attracting attention as an artist.  Simpson's work showed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and he has a piece permanently installed at the Visionary Museum in Baltimore.  He died on June 1, 2013 at age 94. 

Host Frank Stasio takes a look at Vollis Simpson's career and the rise of Outsider Art in North Carolina.  His guests include Roger Manley, the director of the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at North Carolina State University; Chris Vitiello, a freelance writer for the Independent Weekly; Pam Gutlon, the owner of Outsiders Art and Collectibles in Durham; Isti Kaldor, a painter based in Durham; and Laura Ritchie, curator at the Carrack Modern Art in Durham.

Shawn Wen joined the staff of The State of Things in March 2012 and served as associate producer until February 2014.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.