Best Neighborhood Activist: A dedicated community artist

Jeff Norman

Not many of us decide to make the neighborhood where we live our life’s work, but that’s just what community artist Jeff Norman has done since he moved to Oakland’s Temescal district more than twenty years ago. In 1997, he started Shared Ground, a community arts and history organization devoted to the neighborhood. In the decade since its inception, it has launched more than ten projects by and for its residents, including books and videos (the most recent is Norman’s own tome Temescal Legacies: Narratives of Change from a North Oakland Neighborhood); a self-guided walking tour pamphlet; interpretive markers about Temescal Creek, the fire station, and early inhabitants the Ohlone and Vicente Peralta; and an art installation that showcased portraits of residents, merchants, and students. The projects aren’t passive: Many have included a community participation component, from walking tours and block parties to a ten-week history program for Emerson third-graders. With people like Norman to rally neighbors, it’s no wonder there’s no place like home.

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