Spiral Q Puppet Theater

Spiral Q Puppet Theater is a West Philadelphia based arts organization that builds strong and equitable communities characterized by creativity, joy, can-do attitudes, and the courage to act on convictions. The group has its roots in creative social activism using giant puppet parades, toy theater, and public pageantry to pursue its mission to mobilize communities, empower marginalized people, and illuminate the possibilities of neighborhood life. The energies of the full-time staff - and the help of dozens of teaching artists, part-time staff, interns, and volunteers - are currently directed into programs that address educational initiatives, neighborhood parades and pageants, social justice works, a ‘Living Loft’ Giant Puppet Museum, the production of original works of art, and the care and maintenance of an ever-growing collection of art that represents the constructed history of this institution. Spiral Q worked with Studio 6mm to embark on a process of inquiry, research, and information gathering to develop a greater sense of purpose in a newly articulated mission, vision, and values. The work for this project assessed a number of different organizational models and tested them against the capacity of the existing facility, a proposed relocation to a different existing building, and the potential construction of a new center for the arts. A program of requirements was developed for each model and space plans were generated to test different locations in this feasibility study.

One of our most unique projects was helping the Spiral Q Puppet Theater plan for a new facility that would house a variety of artist organizations in West Philadelphia. Spiral Q is a performance troupe that uses puppets and pageantry to explore the stories behind community experience and give a voice to marginalized populations. Their work requires a facility that accommodates a wide variety of media to be explored, storage of found and donated goods, and various maker-spaces/workshops for the production of art. The events they host are intimate at times, think the scale of marionettes. Other events, such as Peoplehood, take over city streets with Puppets that are 25’ tall. Their facilities needed to accommodate each. Our feasibility study tested the impulse to bring a number of art collectives together under one roof to share administrative costs, reduce overhead for each organization, and create a space where different organizations with varied agendas could act as muses for one another. The study considered multiple sites in existing buildings and looked at the opportunities and constraints of each and what benefits they could offer to the video artists, dancers, graphic artists, and performing artists that Spiral Q’s administration was courting to join them. A deep understanding of the varied requirements of different arts groups and the media in which they practice allowed for an elegant solution to a difficult set of project and user needs.