July 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Beer, Art and Bipartisan Bonhomie

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Skall, left, CEO and co-founder of DC Brau, gives Cleaver a tour of the brewery located in Northeast D.C. Cleaver went to the brewery to check out a mural by artist Hannah Dean that was inspired by one of his “civility letters.”

The lion and the tiger growled and started to threaten each other, Cleaver’s story continued. Soon, the natural enemies realized that there were vultures circling above their heads, ready for one predator to tear apart the other. The vultures would be the big winners, the lion and the tiger realized. So, they compromised.

Cleaver goes on to challenge the “donkey and the elephant” to be as wise as the “lions and the tigers” and compromise before the nation heads into “a cornucopia of economic terror.”

Dean sat down and began a watercolor of Cleaver’s lion and tiger circling the watering hole. In less than an hour, she was finished. Dean says she has a remarkable talent for being able to reproduce her work quickly, and accurately. Therefore, if she sells a piece of art, she never truly loses it. She can always repaint it.

Where the Wild Beers Are

DC Brau opened in 2011, a local brewery owned by D.C. residents Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock. Skall, whose arms and legs are covered with colorful, intricate tattoos, says that the brewery consciously decided to support local artists.

Skall and his brew crew are just a few of a passionate group of Washingtonians who have decided to invest, live and raise their families in the capital city.

This group has also decided to invest in Washington’s local art scene. DC Brau is housed in a warehouse tucked behind a gritty strip mall in Northeast D.C., and the walls of the brewery are festooned with contemporary paintings from mostly Washington-based artists. With only a couple of exceptions, the large murals are surrealist depictions of animals, including a robot reindeer to giant wolves.

After the tour of the building, Dean, the artist, approached Skall, the entrepreneur. She thought her image — the lion and the tiger coexisting — would suit the overall theme of the brewery’s art.

It was the artwork that first attracted him, Skall says. It was only later that he found out about Cleaver’s letter.

Dear Colleague Tactics

After he wrote his first civility missive, Cleaver tasked his interns with folding and stuffing each of the envelopes to his colleagues. He asked his staff to hand-deliver each letter, one to every member’s office in the House of Representatives.

Pretty soon the civility letters became a weekly ritual. Eventually, the staff was relieved from having to act as courier, when the congressman decided to send the epistles through the intra-office mail system. He also included his civility letters in his weekly newsletter.

The letters are unselfconsciously earnest, though they are not without humor.

“When a bee thrusts its barbed stinger in our flesh, it pays a heavy price,” Cleaver wrote in a letter dated Nov. 15, 2011. “The stinger, you see, is most often so forcefully stabbed into the flesh that the bee cannot pull it out, so it is left behind. The spot from which the stinger was fixed becomes an open wound which assures the bee’s death.

“When we sting each other with hurtful words and nasty denunciations, we often injure ourselves so badly that our reputation cannot recover,” he continues. “That, of course, leads to spiritual death.”

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