As promised, here’s the last bit of news about the Colombian hearts campaign (for the foreseeable future at least). This story will appear in this week’s edition of the Washington City Paper.

Sherri Kimbel noticed the first two hearts in Logan Circle last Wednesday.

Then, on Thursday, she spotted a third west of Thomas Circle while power-walking with some friends around sunrise. Friday, on 9th Street downtown, she saw yet another, gleaming on the sidewalk. “It’s odd,” she says of the multicolored structures. Not offensive. Not sinister. But slightly peculiar and definitely unexpected, says Kimbel, the director of constituent services for Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.

“It gives you something to look at where you walk,” she says. “But, of course, you can’t have something up on every street corner unregulated.”

And that is what might be called the heart of the matter.

In the District, the Department of Transportation (DDOT) reviews all sidewalk-related permits. After the first hearts appeared in Logan Circle, Kimbel attended a ANC meeting in that neighborhood where they were discussed.

“What the heck are they, and why are they there? And did they get permits?” people wanted to know, according to ANC commissioner Brian Vargas.

The hearts “seem to straddle a line between art and advertisement,” he says. And that’s exactly what they’re meant to do. They’re part of an exhibit—if that’s what you want to call it—by Colombia Is Passion, a branding campaign for the South American country.

The group says it will station 40 sculptures throughout the city this month—before the sculptures are whisked away for street viewing in New York City.

The collection of hearts “tells the story of progress in Colombia,” according to the campaign’s press release. “Those who still have misconceptions about Colombia will leave with a change of heart, having witnessed how Colombia has transformed in recent years.”

Back in early August, DDOT approved 14 locations for the art, says agency spokesperson John Lisle. In some locations, like 18th Street and Columbia Road NW, two hearts—one yellow, one blue—stare at each other from opposite sides of the intersection.

This permit transaction hasn’t loaded the District’s coffers with Colombian money, though; it cost $750. “We have issued similar permits to other non-profit organizations that have done  similar projects. Examples cited by the permit office include ‘Save
the Elephants’ and the ‘educational blocks,’” Lisle wrote in an e-mail to Washington City Paper.

The permit expires Sept. 17, according to Lisle. Still, ANC commissioner Vargas thinks he should have heard about it before the hearts landed all over the city.

When it comes to art and advertising, he says, “ANCs are very good at making judgments. It’s disappointing that DDOT didn’t choose to send them our way.”

Image by Katie Campbell