By Teresa Blackman
Even when one is born and raised in a city, it is easy (especially if among the directionally-challenged half of the population) to ignore knowledge of the intricacies of one’s environment, even one’s own neighborhood. David Anthony Harman, who graduated from the University of Dallas in 2010 with an art degree focused in painting, was intrigued by this dilemma. Though he had lived his entire life in Dallas, he realized that learning about the city was a continual adventure.
“I found myself walking and riding my bike around town, making my way through side streets and small neighborhoods,” his company’s website describes. “A short errand would turn into an hour of exploring. I was captivated by the city I thought I knew so well. I continued to discover new places, neighborhoods, and people.”
With this in mind, Harman became a modern day cartographer, outlining not the highways and landmarks of a city, but its neighborhoods. He first mapped Dallas, creating a screen print of the city’s neighborhoods. Since his map of Dallas garnered a positive response, he and his wife (also a UD alumnus) created their company Native Maps and began to map other United States cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston.
“I chose cities to get a good range, that covered the U.S., West Coast to East Coast,” said Harman.
He had visited all the cities before, but to create the map he thoroughly researched their neighborhoods online and used stories from natives. After all, one person cannot be a native everywhere.
“The ideal situation would be living there for a couple years,” Harman said. “Getting to know the place really well.”
In Dallas, Harman sold maps at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market and learned that even once a map is made, it can change. As he sold maps, he learned more stories about the neighborhoods, and people suggested small changes. Harman recognizes that this fluidity is in the nature of the maps he creates.
“That’s going to happen no matter what, because neighborhood boundaries are very organic,” Harman said.
Even beyond the Deep Ellum market, customers adore his maps.
“Everyone really loves them,” said Victoria Gerbis, who works at the Mokah Coffee Bar where his maps are sold. “We sell at least one a week.”
On his Etsy shop, customers rave about how they love to work with him and how beautiful the maps are. One customer declared a map “a research and design masterpiece.”
Harman hopes to continue working in the art world. He and his family moved to Tennessee in 2012, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in painting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. As one who has successfully navigated the postgraduate art world, Harman offered advice to art students.
“First and foremost, keep making art — never stop making art.”
“Artists are creative people,” he added in an email. “And there’s no reason not to be creative in all aspects of life, including how to make a living as an artist.”