In March of 2005, Bob Arnold (one of the creators behind the Sign Writing movement) founded ASLian Poetry & Storytelling Night at the famed Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan. After running it for 6 months, he relocated, and Jason Norman took over, hosting the open mic event on a monthly basis and changing the name to ASL Slam. Douglas Ridloff, then an emerging poet, artist, and performer, joined the ASL Slam family in 2006 to help with the event.
By 2009, Douglas became the sole host, and ASL Slam became a brand, garnering national and international attention, and attracting audiences and performers from all over the world with its rotation of monthly events, ranging from open mics to fully staged performances.
In 2013, ASL Slam kicked off its first tour, visiting Michigan, Austin, France, and many other locales. ASL Slam is still growing, and has officially franchised events in Boston and Chicago while the NYC Slam continues to thrive.
In 2019, ASL Slam officially became a non-profit organization, with Douglas Ridloff as the founder, joined by a designated board and ongoing support team.
ASL Slam continues to maintain its monthly event in New York City, now hosted at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The project brings together established Deaf poets and performers to share their material with a wider community, and also offers the stage to audience members. Slam is a safe space for the Deaf community to play, experiment and share in their native American Sign Language.
Building off the momentum and community engagement of ASL Slam’s monthly shows, we seek to expand the reach and potential of ASL Slam as a catalyst for new artistic production in American Sign Language.
Under the leadership of Douglas Ridloff, ASL Slam has collaborated on projects, workshops and events with the Whitney Museum, the Jewish Museum, Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Center for the Humanities at CUNY Graduate Center and many more.
Recognizing the need for more opportunities for Deaf creatives, as well as the lack of educational resources for Deaf children, ASL Slam seeks to expand its scope through four main project initiatives: Educational Programs, Artist Residences, Digital Archives, and an expansion of ASL Slam’s monthly events.