Baltimore’s Inner harbor features amazing institutions like the Visionary Art Museum and the Museum of Industry. Harbor East offers diners a great diversity of gastronomic options. And sometimes it’s nice to blend in with the flocks of tourists to stroll the waterside, or take the water taxi to enjoy a panorama unavailable anywhere else in the city.

One thing one does not do, however, is take a refreshing dip.

In 2016, Waterfront Partnership’s annual Water Quality Report Card gave the waterways of the inner harbor a failing grade, citing high levels of raw sewage, nitrogen and phosphorus as the culprits. That same year, Facebook featured a video of tourists diving into the harbor, frolicking as Baltimore locals looked on in horror. Sinkholes and sewage leaks were common items in the news. Baltimore City’s waterworks are over 100 years old—once a source of civic pride, decades of neglect and atrophy indicate that Baltimore’s infrastructure and development plan are in need of more thoughtful consideration.

This is already happening, in unique ways that reflect our city’s offbeat and eccentric character.  The Inner Harbor Water Wheel, casually known as  “Mr. Trash Wheel” (and later a second wheel, Professor Trash Wheel) offers an innovative solution has removed over 1 million pounds of debris flushed into the Inner Harbor since 2014, and obtained local celebrityhood. Other actions, like the Floating Wetlands program, and the annual Baltimore Flotilla are examples in which the community addresses the ecological and political aspects of water health that are fun and creative.

The Herd is a tribute to all the citizens of Baltimore City who continue to hope for a healthy city and healthy waterways. The Herd is a cluster of 375 luminous solar powered inflatable swim rings (designed by the artist)—similar in appearance to the floats used by swimmers at the seaside—laced together in a net to form a glowing multitude of creatures calmly bobbing in the shimmering ripples of the nighttime harbor.

Waterfront Partnership states that its overall goal is to have a swimmable and fishable harbor by 2020. Boston, Los Angeles, Paris and other cities overcame sewer infrastructure problems – similar to those faced by Baltimore – by making large improvements in the health of their waterways. The trash wheel project, initiated here in Baltimore, has set an example that is inspiring other cities to try this innovative solution to keep their home waters clean.

The best solution, however, to waste entering the harbor is to not have it go there in the first place. Education, and making Baltimorians aware of the big difference they can make by undertaking small changes is the most effective method of all. Light City is a great platform to spread this message. The Herd is a great way to communicate it. The empty glowing rings of The Herd are a hope and a promise that someday, when we take the responsibility of clean water into our own hands individually, they will indeed be filled by happy bathers enjoying the Inner Harbor in a new, refreshing way.

The inflatables will be for sale during the Light City 2018 Festival. All proceeds, after taxes and shipping will be donated to three non-profit partners: Waterfront Partnership's Healthy Harbor Initiative, the Baltimore-based performance group Fluid Movement, and the Living Classrooms Foundation. The sale and distribution of the piece would serve as an effective way to promote these non-profits, re-iterate the goal of a healthy harbor, and celebrate Baltimore's creative offbeat vitality.  Finally, it ensures that the piece will have a life of its own after the festival, and that the materials used in fabricating the piece would be put to a good (and fun) re-use.

The Herd will be rolling into Baltimore for the Third Annual Light City Festival in Baltimore Maryland from April 13 – 21. It will be on view in the Baltimore Harbor between Piers 5 and 6. 

Interested in helping out? The Herd is seeking volunteers and has paid positions available for assistance with installation and breakdown. Fill out this application form to get started!