Bad Art, Great Times

Beer goggles not required

The decor of a brewery taproom is an important part of its identity and the experience it provides to patrons. Some are akin to a sports bar, with plenty of TVs and pro team decorations. Others focus on the idea of beer itself, showing off their fermenters and lining the walls with beer-themed signs. Dorchester Brewing Company (DB Co.) in Dorchester, Massachusetts, has a little bit for everyone – especially those who like poorly-done portraits of Bob Marley or collections of eye-themed paintings.

Beginning in September 2022, DB Co. became the new host site of the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA), a Boston-based museum that showcases what they describe as “art too bad to be ignored.” The new partnership let MOBA use DB Co.’s Dorchester taproom to display pieces from their collection, becoming their first permanent home in years.

people enjoying the Museum of Bad Art at the Dorchester Brewing Co.
Photo courtesy of Museum of Bad Art

“We had lost our old space in the Somerville Theater during the pandemic,” said MOBA Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louis Sacco, “and we really wanted to find a new physical home to display our collection.”

Sacco had a list of requirements for the ideal new space, wanting it to be accessible through public transit, open on the weekend, and most importantly, free of admission for the public. After getting in contact with management at DB Co., MOBA had found a new home that fit the bill. 

DB Co. was founded in 2016 and functions as a partner brewing facility with a public taproom that serves both in-house and partner beers. A brewery that puts emphasis on community and fun, Dorchester seemed like a natural match for MOBA. As for what DB Co. gets out of their partnership, the taproom’s new decor has helped add to the brewery’s social environment.

“The art definitely becomes a conversation piece for a lot of our customers,” said DB Co. Events Manager Derek Rayner. “It used to be that people would come and sit, have a drink, and leave. Now they’re up and moving, looking at art and experiencing the whole brewery.”

“It used to be that people would come and sit, have a drink, and leave. Now they’re up and moving, looking at art and experiencing the whole brewery.”

– Derek Rayner, DB Co. Events Manager

Having such a large space lends itself to being able to host more MOBA events as well. In February, MOBA hosted the first of what they hope to be many curator talks at the taproom, allowing those who run the museum to talk about how they find, choose, and analyze the art in their collection.

The art itself is often worthy of such discussion, with museum curators putting together collections that include pieces such as “Ferret in a Brothel” and a portrait of Jackie Kennedy flirting with George Washington, among a host of other questionable artistic expressions. That questionability is exactly what piques most visitors’ interest, and what MOBA has been built on from the beginning. The museum got its start in the mid-90s, when Co-Founder Scott Wilson, an antique collector, came across a poorly-done painting in an ornate frame he planned on using. Rather than throwing out the painting, he was convinced to keep it, and he and friend Jerry Reilly began a small collection. After hosting a party at Reilly’s to showcase the art, the idea of turning it into a legitimate museum was born, which to this day has the same purpose as always.

“We emphasize that we never say anything bad about the artists,” said Sacco. “Our mission is to celebrate the artists and art that otherwise would never get talked about.”

Now, nearly 30 years later, MOBA may be as close to its roots as ever — with the drinks and conversations being enjoyed at DB Co. being akin to those in Reilly’s basement years before.

Issue: March-April 2023