Starting in October, 155,000 vehicles will be driving around Arlington with a dab of art on their windshields.
Yesterday, the Arlington County Board announced the winner of a contest among local high school students to design the 2005-06 county vehicle decal, the sticker that is affixed to the windshield of every vehicle registered in the county.
Stephanie Claros, 19, of Wakefield High, photographed the colorful "David and Ana" statues featured in Rosslyn.
The winning design, which was chosen from among four finalists by 2,500 Arlington citizens online, was "Ice Blanket" by Washington-Lee High School senior Wilson Kemp, 17. It is a moody photograph of Key Bridge stretching across an ice- and snow-crusted expanse of the Potomac River, with the office buildings of Rosslyn rising in the distance.
Wilson was one of four finalists who came to the County Board meeting yesterday with their teachers and family members to hear the winner announced and accept $500 each in savings bonds from the county.
Lanky and bearded, wearing glasses and a black sweater and slacks, Wilson reflected on what it will mean to see his artwork whizzing by on the parkway or stuck in traffic at rush hour.
"It's going to be overwhelming," he said, adding that this photograph was among his "more commercial" work. A photography student at Washington-Lee, Kemp said he has long been drawn to urban and industrial vistas, which he admitted can be hard to find in Arlington's more suburban landscapes. His Web site, www.wilsonkemp.com, showcases smoke-tinged industrial scenes from Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
The Arlington County decal started in 1949 as a prosaic metal plate that drivers affixed to their license plates. In 1967, the county switched to window decals, but for decades they had little variation, most of them a single-color depiction of the county logo, the Greek Revival-style Arlington House (Custis Lee Mansion) in Arlington National Cemetery.
For the 2001 decal, the county realized it would not cost extra to use a color photo, and the next year it branched out and selected a photograph of the first responders to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The year after that, the county decided to invite citizen input; a photo of the Tomb of the Unknowns won that year, and a picture of the Iwo Jima Memorial won the year after.
County Treasurer Francis X. O'Leary said the idea to have students design the decal came from a retired CIA historian who had ignored his own artistic side in favor of his career. The idea fit with the "Arlington Way," a local tradition that emphasizes citizen involvement, said O'Leary, adding that the student design contest will probably become another tradition.
A citizens panel selected the four finalists from 20 entries, which included pen-and-ink drawings paintings and photographs from students at Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown high schools (H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and Bishop O'Connell High School did not submit entries). The design had to depict what Arlington meant to the students. Entries included renditions of the cardinal, Virginia's state bird, and a drawing of bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The other finalists were Laura Downes, 17, a junior at Wakefield who photographed her classmates' hands reaching around a globe; Stephanie Claros, 19, a Wakefield senior who photographed the colorful "David and Ana" statues in Rosslyn; and Tim Kouril, 17, a junior at Yorktown and the Arlington Career Center, whose computer graphic shows a plane landing at Reagan National Airport.
Wilson will be a freshman this fall at Hampshire College, where he plans to study photography and seek out industrial grit. His brother, a Washington-Lee graduate, attends the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Their father, Hovey Kemp, watched proudly as his son shook hands with county officials. A corporate attorney, he said he has no aptitude for art. "Both my boys are exercising every creative gene I ever sublimated," he said.