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A look at how Spiral Q uses larger-than-life puppets to fight for social justice

The twenty-year-old arts org is nominated for Maker of the Year at the Philly Geek Awards. Watch our video for a sneak peek at their latest project.

A person wearing a mask receiving medical advice via telehealth. (Photo by Pexels user Edward Jenner)
Spiral Q is reawakening the Sleeping Giant.

It’s a puppet that hasn’t seen the light of day in six years. The arts organization uses larger-than-life puppets, art and theatre to fight for social justice, and they’re getting ready for their 17th annual Peoplehood Parade on Oct. 29, where the Sleeping Giant will make its encore debut.
Spiral Q is nominated for Maker of the Year in this year’s Philly Geek Awards, to be held this Sunday, Oct. 16. Tickets are $40.
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The makers let us into their workshop at 4100 Haverford Avenue in Mantua to get a behind the scenes peek at artistic director Liza Goodell and Rachel Adler working on the Sleeping Giant’s rebirth. Watch our video below .

The 2007 Peoplehood Parade where the Sleeping Giant was last seen was Jennifer Turnbull’s first day working with Spiral Q before she became the interim executive artistic director. It was a day that started at 9 a.m. and was filled with puppets, people, a drill team, marshals and bikers.
“Being able to walk in our West Philly streets with hundreds of people coming together was an amazing experience,” said Turnbull. “I had never been in a local parade in that way. That kind of magic got into me.”
At the organization’s inception in 1996, Spiral Q used art, street theatre and puppets to support, advocate and bring joy to those living with AIDs and HIV. Now the organization has expanded their scope and mission to include a variety of societal issues. It partners with organizations like Project HOME and Girard Medical Center to use art as a way to gain visibility for campaigns to end homelessness or aid in the process of addiction recovery.
“Because they were wearing puppets, [Project Home] remarked they got twice as many signatures than when they did it without the puppets because they were more approachable,” Goodell said.
This year’s Peoplehood Parade, which stretches from the Paul Robeson House at 50th and Walnut Streets to Clark Park in West Philadelphia, aims to show the city that “when we come together we are giant.”
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Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
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