JF: I came to Baltimore in 1969 to go to Rinehart [School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art].
AF: As far as places within this metropolitan area that you’ve lived, where have you lived?
JF: Up until I got married, eight, nine, ten years ago now, I’ve always lived in the City. I started out in Parkville. Then I was separated from my wife and I went to Fells Point, back in the glory days of Fells Point. The City had bought up large portions of Fells Point because they wanted to tie [Interstate] 83 to [Interstate] 95. The remaining citizens of Fells Point got it blocked, because they got Fells Point declared an historic district.
AF: Were you part of that process?
JF: I knew the people involved with it. One of my lifetime friends here in Baltimore is a guy by the name of Jim Dilts, who used to be a writer for The Sun paper. He was actively involved when the committee, the Fells Point Association—I’m not sure of the title, but it was a neighborhood association—actively involved, and they blocked it. Then the City had all of this property that they didn’t know what to do with. I’m not sure how this actually came about, but the solution was you could rent to buy. Fells Point became an artist’s haven, until it was discovered by people with more money. Over the years, for the most part—other than the artists who actually owned—the artists who actually owned valuable pieces of property were able to hang on—but for the most part, Fells Point is not the Fells Point of the 1970s and 1980s. It was really a fun place to be, you know? It was Baltimore’s SoHo.
AF: In your time there, were you a renter?
AF: How many years, approximately?
JF: Oh, from five to ten years. In the late 1970s, I was working as a carpenter for a man who had a renovation/construction company. And out of the clear blue sky they called me from the Institute and they wanted me to come for an interview. The man who interviewed me was a man by the name of Jack [Custee], who was a sweetheart of a guy. And I knew him from my Rinehart years because, one, I drove the delivery truck during my Rinehart years. He wasn’t my immediate boss, but I was a part of his department. And he offered me this job as a head of the maintenance department. And it was really farfetched. I mean, I could make metal sculpture, and I could do carpentry work, and I could plunge a toilet, and I could change a light bulb, and things like that. But the responsibility of the whole thing was really something. But I succeeded. I succeeded, and if you ask people that had anything to do with me from maybe 1978, 1979, through maybe 1994, 1995, maybe 1996, they’ll tell you that I did a good job. And I’m really quite proud of that, you know.