Gehrke Windmill ParkEmil (1902-1980) and Veva Gehrke
Relocated (incl. Museums)
Grand Coulee, WA, United States
The remaining whirligigs/windmills were moved to North Dam Park at the corner of Grand Coulee Avenue and Spokane Boulevard.
About the Artist/Site
The hundreds of whirligigs (or windmills according to locals) created by Emil Gehrke first began popping up outside the Gehrke home after 1960. Each windmill is unique, handcrafted by Emil out of metal and iron scraps, and painted by his wife Veva. With material sourced from junkyards and scrap piles across 62,000 miles, the Gerhke’s crafted a total of 781 individual wind sculptures. National Geographic featured a photo of Emil’s work in the December 1975 article “Can We Harness the Wind?” including a quote from Emil about his motivation for making the sculptures:
“I just wanted to make something for the young people to see.”
The love for Gehrke’s windmills led to their inclusion in a campaign to beautify and humanize a Seattle substation. The whirligigs were chosen by the design team of Sherry Markovitz, Andy Keating, and Buster Simpson as a dynamic element amongst the static landscape of the Viewland Hoffman substation. The windmills epitomized the vibrancy and energy of folk art within Washington, united in concept and color with other murals and artistic elements meant to convey the legacy of electricity at the substation. A chain link tunnel allows the viewer to wander through the substation and observe the interaction of the artwork and electrical equipment up close.
Though a large number of the sculptures are held in private collections, visitors can still see the Gehrke’s windmills on Spokane Boulevard in Grand Coulee. Over 100 of the Gehrke’s creations are grouped on display in the Gehrke Windmill Garden, put together by local residents following Emil’s death in 1979, as a memorial to the iconic artist couple.
~Nikki Ranney, 2023
Emil Gehrke and Willem Volkersz. Transcript of interview with Emil Gehrke, 1976 August 19. Willem Volkersz interviews, 1975-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Roger Hamilton. “Can We Harness the Wind?” National Geographic 148, no. 6 (December 1975).
cups, found objects, gardening implements, plastic
SPACES Archives Holdings
1 folder: clippings, correspondence, images
Map & Site Information
Grand Coulee, WA us
Latitude/Longitude: 47.9391662 / -119.0120921