Ridgewood’s Norman Street featured in community art project

Libby Mislan and the participants in the "Inside Norman Street" project.
Photo courtesy Fanny Texier

One Ridgewood street will be the focus of its own storytelling, book and dance project thanks to a community arts grant from the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA).

The project, “Inside Norman Street,” is a neighborhood-based storytelling, dance performance and book project that brings together residents of Norman Street to write and share their stories, which professional street and stage dancers will bring to life through movement and music during a live performance on Dec. 11.

Performance poet and Norman Street resident, Libby Mislan, applied for the community arts grant from the QCA to see how a community-based arts project could bring the people of Norman Street together.

“I teach poetry and creative arts, and I found I have this powerful experience in the class with memoir work and performance art,” Mislan said. “I wanted to see how that would work in the community and see how it could bring the community together.”

Mislan went door to door on Norman Street to recruit 12 residents to participate in her project. The participants range in age from 17 to 74. Together, the group represents countries including Nepal, Poland, Puerto Rico, Kyrgyzstan and Jamaica, as well as New York City and Ridgewood.

“It’s a really wide range of people,” Mislan said. “A few people have been involved in the arts, while some had no experience with art. It’s cool to see because they are really diverse in age and from all over the world. They appreciate their own diversity.”

The group gathered for an eight-week creative writing workshop during October and November. During the workshops, participants wrote and shared stories about their relationships, overcoming fears, where they feel most at home, and what they hold sacred.

“We had a different theme we were working on every week. We wrote about places we feel most at home, relationships, first times, overcoming fears, sacred objects, falling in or out of love and life circumstance,” Mislan said. “They were designed to get people to tell their stories. Sharing is also a big part of the project and a lot of the real community building happened during those times of sharing.”

During the final performance, the participants will read their stories, which have been complied into a book design by book artist/graphic designer Yo-E Ryou, while the four dance performers, led by choreographer/dancer Zoe Rappaport, interpret their words through movement and musicians will play to their stories.

“I’m just really excited to see how it’s going to affect life on the block after the performance,” Mislan said. “I’m interested to see how the art-making made the community come together.”

The project culminates in a one-night-only live performance at Outpost Artist Resources, located at 1665 Norman St. on Friday, Dec. 11, at 8:30 p.m.