Highlights from the interview with Dan Herman

Portrait of Dan Herman

On the Baltimore Bike Party

DH: Last night I was in here, and one of the trains whistled as it was leaving the station down here. That is so lovely. I mean, that’s right there, and  Penn Station’s out the window, and the activity!

I stuck my head out here the other night. I was watching a movie on the computer. All of a sudden, I heard this commotion out on the streets, which isn’t unusual, because there’s noise out here sometimes. But it’s like these people shouting real loud and boisterously. So I went to the window, and coming up Guilford Avenue, filling Guilford Avenue on both sides, are bicycles. There was evidently this bicycle fete [Baltimore Bike Party] that happened at night, because it was 9:30, quarter-to-ten.

The whole avenue was filled with bicycles going north. That flood of bikes continued for about twenty-five minutes. I stuck my head out the window and just watched.

And some people had a drum on their bike and they all had lights and some people were singing and people were chatting and all this energy and this wave, just this flood of bicycles! Now that was unexpected.

Have you ever seen Amarcord? The Fellini film, Amarcord? That’s a great film. It’s called “I Remember, that’s what Amarcord means in Italian, as far as I know, “I Remember.” There’s a scene in there where everybody in the village rouses themselves, gets on these little boats, and heads out into the harbor. And the next thing you know, out of the fog comes this ocean liner and it’s moving by with all its lights. And all of these people, the villagers, are out in these boats and they’re bobbing like corks. And here is this—the whole landscape seems to be moving as this ocean liner—it’s the most stunning sight. And that’s why they’re out there. And that’s what the bicycles reminded me of the other day when they were rolling by here like that. This mass of lights like this, and sound.

Anyway, that’s one of the benefits of living down here. All that sort of color that’s unexpected and offers variety. And you really don’t have to go anywhere. You’ve got all this variety. That’s the wonderful thing about urban life, all the cultural input and diversity. I really appreciate that quite a bit.

Audio clip from oral history interview with Dan Herman

On Artists and Community

DH: So I’m probably irresponsible in that respect [not attending community association meetings]. The only thing I can think is that I make my effort in being on the street and talking with people and just trying to be part of a place. I kind of assuage whatever misgivings I have about not being really active like that. I’m still a member of the community. And that’s what I do. I pick up trash when I see it out here. I talk to people. I’m on the street. I’m out on the street walking and talking and I guess that’s the best—you know, maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s what my effort is.

AF:  How much change have you seen as a result of some of this gentrification in the surrounding neighborhood?

DH:  Well, you know that mural project that just happened, for example? [Open Walls Baltimore]. That altered things around here, because what it did was it highlighted the neighborhood. And I know that there were certain misgivings about that on the part of those that actually organized that. They were a little reluctant, because they knew that what they were doing was opening the door for real estate investors and that sort of thing.

I can’t speak for people in the community, but what it appeared to do…

I went to the party when they opened that [mural project], when they had the big party down the block down here. And everybody in the neighborhood was out. All the art kids were out. People in the community were out. Everybody was partying and dancing and being part of it. And I think the focus—I mean, I can’t speak for people—but it appeared that the focus on the community boosted people’s esteem that they were part of something that was happening. So whether you liked the murals, for better or worse, whether you think they really do anything, the energy did something.

And I think that translated to people in the community as well—other people in the community besides artists is what I mean to say—other people that live here. So, yeah. I saw people out. I mean I was dancing with people walking by their houses and talking with people that I’d never met before. And I think all those things contribute to a sort of integration of all the different elements that make up this neighborhood.

Audio clip from oral history interview with Dan Herman