Whirligig Park kicks off new performance series this spring

Kaleidoscope Series continues in May

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After its inaugural concert by the Thomas Taylor Sextet on April 27, the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park continues the new Kaleidoscope Performance Series in May with two events in May and one in June.

This free series will feature the Paperhand Puppet Intervention on May 11 from 2 to 4 p.m., Orquesta GarDel on May 25 from 2 to 4 p.m., and a June 8 independent short film festival.

“This series came about because we got a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council to do a performance series,” said Jeff Bell, arts innovation coordinator for the city of Wilson and director for the non-profit Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. “We wanted it to be varied with a lot of different performances and line up with as many partners as possible and support other arts organizations and programming.”

The Kaleidoscope series name came from both the series and the view through kaleidoscopes being varied and fractured.

“The colors in the Whirligigs and their turning in the wind also reminded me of kaleidoscopes,” Bell said.


On May 11, the Paperhand Puppet Intervention will perform on the Whirligig Park stage and then invite attendees to put on the group’s puppet costumes and join in a parade that will walk to Imagination Station where there will be another project for participants to complete.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention began in 1998 when directors Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger met and began making giant puppets and masks out of papier-mache, cardboard, bamboo, old house paint, cloth and various junk. Twenty years later, they continue to make puppets, tell stories, lead parades, beat drums and host celebrations for people of all ages.

“I’m very familiar with their work, and we wanted to do some co-programming with the Arts Council of Wilson and Imagination Station,” Bell said. There is an entire day of events called ‘Outside In,’ which is a celebration of folk and outsider art. The Paperhand Puppet parade will lead to Imagination Station where people can take part in ‘Houses Without Borders,’ which is a free program that creates houses with Legos and found objects.”


The Kaleidoscope series continues on May 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. with Orquesta GarDel, a salsa and dance band.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to have an event to connect with the Latino community,” Bell said. “We went out and talked to people in the community and went to list-servs trying to find performers. We had a number of options, and everyone seemed to like Orquesta GarDel, which is a very popular group out of Durham with a great following.”

Orquesta GarDel performs original salsa and timba, a Cuban genre of music. The group promises a high-energy Latin dance music show.

Bell noted that Diana Torres, dean of arts at the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education, was involved in the selection and is coordinating a student performance that will be a part of the day’s festivities.


With some details still being worked out, the last performance in the Kaleidoscope Series will be the Tarheel Shorties Film Festival on June 8. This independent short film festival has run for two years, with this being its first time in Wilson.

Films will be shown at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center during the day and at night at Whirligig Park.

Bell said that he hopes to continue this series every year and is working on funding to keep it ongoing.

“We hope to continue being the recipient of N.C. Arts Council grants, but we are also looking for other grant money and sponsorships,” Bell said.

The North Carolina Arts Council is a division of the NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.