Bar Coasters — Perfect for Youth Ages 3 — 16

Bar Coasters -- Perfect for Youth Ages 3 -- 16

Here are two views of a new publicly-funded artwork produced by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. It is a  bar coaster promoting a family-friendly New Year’s event that’s “perfect for youth ages 3-16.”

This two-sided, plasticized objet d’art is 5 inches across. The renarkable trompe-l’oeil is so convincing that many viewers actually mistake it for clip art at first. Quite droll, really. Kudos to DCCAH visual arts grantee … oh dear; no artist signature.

In fact, this handsome artifact cleverly avoids identifying any DC artists or cultural organizations participating in the publicaly-funded event. So do the two full-page City Paper ads for the shindig.  How “high-concept!”

Don’t fret; the artwork and ads prominently display the  agency’s own logo and contact information.

The Arts Commission gets public funding to encourage and support DC art and artists, so the names of the artists must be at the URL marked on the coaster, right?


Back in the last century, DC cultural workers convinced the Smithsonian to stop presenting traditional ethnic artists who are our neighbors as exotic imports. These artists live here; their heritage is not foreign, it’s part of our community’s culture now. Maybe DCCAH didn’t get the message that freak shows are out of style these days.

On the other hand, there is a picture of a passport on the beer coaster. It could be that the DC Arts Commission spared no taxpayer expense and flew to Mexico, Europe, Korea, and the Horn of Africa to bring ’em back alive. DC’s local arts agency certainly did that sort of thing with foreign movies for the past decade.


Full disclosure: Years ago writer-editor Mike Licht worked at DCCAH and was a Smithsonian Fellow. Come to think of it, he used a fair number of bar coasters back then, too.

Image by the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, an agency of  the District of Columbia Government which is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency. Copies of this public document here.


3 Responses to “Bar Coasters — Perfect for Youth Ages 3 — 16”

  1. Evie Says:

    Am I to understand that this is a most ridiculous organization? I considered volunteering (it among others) and am now not so giddy about it. Respond offline if you must. I’d really appreciate your insight.

  2. Oh, BAR Coasters! « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] wondered why the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities was using bar coasters to promote today’s event, the one that is “perfect for youth ages 3 – 16.” Indeed, […]

  3. Mike Licht Says:

    (The answer to Evie’s question [above] is that while the mission of this DC government agency is far from ridiculous, the absurd things DCCAH has been doing instead of its mission are beyond ludicrous. This is public money, and this is the only public arts agency DC has.

    There are highly-qualified professionals at this outfit, but not leading it.)

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