Inside Norman Street is an ongoing artistic collaboration between neighbors that are strangers, all living on the same street in Ridgewood, Queens. The project aims to give residents of a single street a new medium to hear their own and each other’s stories, have a collaborative arts experience, and build creative community.  

In its first iteration, Inside Norman Street took place in the fall of 2015. Local artist and community arts worker Libby Mislan recruited participants and facilitated weekly creative writing sessions with 12 residents of Norman Street, who were guided with open prompts to share stories about their personal lives. The project culminated in an artfully crafted book and powerful final performance during which the residents read their stories as they were interpreted through live music, dance, and video.

New Yorkers can go years without knowing who their neighbors are, despite their living in such close proximity to each other. With the neighborhood of Ridgewood rapidly gentrifying, this sense of isolation on a residential street is more acute. As a new resident on a block rich with interpersonal connection, Mislan’s project forges friendship and empathy amongst new and long-term community residents.

For the past 12 weeks, 12 residents from Norman Street in Ridgewood have participated in creative writing and storytelling workshops with local artist Libby Mislan. The neighbors range in age from 21 to 75 and they represent countries all over the world, as well as other states and folks who grew up in New York City and on Norman Street itself. These once strangers have now become friends and artistic collaborators, through sharing and writing stories about topics including relationships, support systems, freedom, justice, New York City, and childhood.

Within the past month, residents have begun weaving their stories into a collaborative performance piece. LA/NY-based dancer/choreographer Zoe Rappaport and 2 professional dancers will join the Norman Street artists to bring their stories to life through movement. The collaboration also includes Norman Street musician Skip LaPlante, producer Eldad Arad and video artist Alex Nathanson. Graphic designer/book artist Yo-E Ryou is designing an anthology of residents’ stories that will premiere as part of our culminating celebration.


This presentation is made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts’ 2017 Electronic Media and Film Presentation Funds Grant program, administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.