Twirl turns 14 today, April 1. It’s hard to imagine Taos without it. Twirl is a vibrant play space; a point of connection for families, schools and community organizations; and the source of a constantly evolving curriculum of creative learning, as well as a wonderful toy store.
“Twirl started as the brainchild of a group of young mothers,” said Nikki Ross, Twirl’s Executive Director. “We wanted to create a space for families with young children as the options were very limited in Taos. We found the perfect location right off the Plaza. The building had a rich foundation with magical features, and over the years, local artists have added their special touches to the experience.”
Fast forward to today, and while some things haven’t changed (much of the original team is still in place), the scope of Twirl’s programming has grown dramatically. In 2014, Twirl became a 501(c)3 play-based learning nonprofit to reflect their expanded mission. The toy store is part of that mission, and retail income supports their work.
“We started out with programs for young children and continued to evolve,” said Ross. “Twirl has grown with our own children. It’s been about magic and creativity from the beginning. Creativity is so important, yet we spend more time consuming than creating. Our mission is to ignite the creative sparks inside all of us, with our space and with our programs. Our annual Invent Event is a great example of this. It is a huge community event that brings together hundreds of Taos families to make, create and play. It is produced by Twirl but involves collaboration with numerous community partners.”
Anaïs Rumfelt is Twirl’s marketing manager. “We’re always looking for ways to work collaboratively, and I think that has earned us the respect of our community, which is key to our ongoing success,” Rumfelt said. “Every year, we do a project in conjunction with The Paseo. We build a curriculum and go into schools and community centers to work with students. We provide an opportunity for art-based exploration – to dig deeper and be part of something bigger. This work culminates in a large scale installation at The Paseo the whole community can enjoy.”
With the main Twirl location closed, there has been a wellspring of activity behind the scenes.
“We closed the store last March 13 and the Twirl team really jumped into gear to adapt,” said Rumfelt. “We looked at all the different ways we could continue to serve families, and set about trying to make them happen! We worked with schools and agencies to get supplies for playing- and learning at-home to families. We sent out 3,500 toys, 1,000 project bags, provided over 200 daily classes on Facebook and created a YouTube channel full of at-home projects. We moved our toy store to the Twirl Too location and launched an e-commerce site in time for the holidays.”
Added Ross: “We also hosted a weekly At Home with Twirl & Friends column with different agencies contributing ideas and support for families. Over 30 partners shared their expertise and perspective, and it really embodied the spirit of how the community of Taos came together for families. We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to work in tandem with so many wonderful organizations and individuals during this time, even as the pandemic conspired to keep us all apart.”
“The crown jewel was our Mask Gathering. We wanted to provide some positivity and fun around the divisive topic of masks,” Rumfelt continued. “We looked at how they’ve been used throughout history to open conversation about how masks make us feel, and how we can humanize them. We have a user-friendly online platform, with instructional videos and gallery featuring masks made by our community. We’ve sent out 850 creative mask-making kits to local families.”
“Still, it’s been really hard not seeing families in person,” said Ross. “We miss them and are preparing for when we can all reemerge. We have moved our community playspace downstairs to be more accessible and we’re excited to open our doors! Kids are tapped out from a year of being online and separated from friends, and we want to give them a reason to celebrate. We’re really hoping we can provide plenty of opportunities for play and creativity this summer!
“After 14 years, Twirl has a presence in the community,” Ross said. “People have grown up with us, and every year we see more families. The inclusivity of Twirl is one of the things we are most grateful for. Twirl serves our whole community. We make it our mission to reach out and facilitate that inclusiveness.
“People appreciate our efforts and want to support us,” Ross concluded. “Including shopping locally. It’s been a rough year for local retailers. We have our work cut out to stay viable. But shopping at Twirl is an experience, so we’re hopeful!”
More information can be found at twirltaos.org.