Help a Dutch artist realize his dream of spelling out ‘I [Heart] DC’ in parked cars

September 13, 2013

Dutch artist Erik Van Loon really loves our city. When he visited D.C. in 2012 for Election Day, he was enthralled. So enthralled, in fact, that his brief encounter has inspired him to attempt a massive tribute to the District.

Van Loon is looking for 250 volunteers to drive their black or red cars to a K Street parking lot in order to park them in an "I [Heart] D.C." formation so that he can use a helicopter to take an aerial photo, which he'll then turn into a 20-by-12-foot banner to hang on a blank tower visible from the northbound lanes approaching the Third Street Tunnel.


Artist Erik Van Loon's proposal for a large-scale art project in the District. (Courtesy Erik Van Loon)

Got all that? In return for three hours of their time, drivers will receive a sandwich and a coffee, as well as a digital file of the image. He estimates the whole project will cost approximately $16,000, and he is soliciting donations.

Van Loon was trying to get the "I Love D.C." project off the ground earlier this year, but it didn't work out. (At one point, he was also trying to organize a swim in the Potomac, but those plans appear to be on hold.) When he spoke to me at that time, he laid out the reasons why a city he has only spent four days in captivated him so much.

"For me, it had global society -- poor and rich and black and white ... I like the energy," he said. "I really love the people, the museums. I love everything about Washington. I have to make 'We Love D.C.'"

Don't tell him it can't be done, either -- though, fitting 250 cars in formation in the parking lot Van Loon is eyeing, on K Street NW between Third and Fourth streets, would be an awfully tight squeeze. "One of the guys [Van Loon met on his first trip to D.C.] said it was impossible. I said to him, I'm going to call Obama! Or I can send a balloon in the air with a camera," he said. "This is the American dream."

Van Loon has worked on large-scale, urban art projects before. Each year since 2005, he has painted a massive mural for the the New York City Marathon, depicting large-scale subjects like the Statue of Liberty, and historical and patriotic scenes.

He tweeted Thursday that he got a response to his Craigslist ad seeking D.C. studio space, in which he requested "A floor of 33 x 20 feet (to lay down the painting) - Electricity to light the painting at night - Extra natural light and a toilet would be great."

Van Loon is probably more enthusiastic about D.C. than many people who actually live here. Wanna help him out?

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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