For an aesthetically pleasing, artistically stimulating activity this weekend, come to Arlington and look at cartoons.

No, Donald Duck hasn't gone Dada, but the National Capital Stained Glass Guild has completed its long-sought goal of gathering cartoon panels (as stained-glass pictures are called), stained-glass lamps, jewelry, tables and other items in a juried show of local artists.

The jury of the show consisted of four local judges: Jane Meredith of Meredith Stained Glass Gallery at Tysons Corner; Jude Schlotzhauer, who teaches stained-glass classes at American University; and Sarah Ebeleth Hansen and Anne Smith, who own The Glass Gallery in Bethesda. The four cut 120 entries to the 66 pieces accepted from 42 artists.

The Stained Glass Guild hopes to turn the show, cosponsored by the Arlington County Visual and Performing Arts Department, into an annual event, giving its 50 members and other artists a regular outlet for their work.

"Stained glass is still thought of as a craft, not an art," said show chairman Elli Abramson, "and there are no galleries in Washington that regularly hang panels."

But it's not gallery-goers that the show's sponsors hope to attract. "Your average guy off the street is too intimidated to go into a gallery," said Melody Lewis, Arlington County's representative to the show, "and we wanted a show designed for the broadest possible spectrum of the public."

Abramson said, "The average guy off the street thinks stained glass is only for churches."

Boy, is he in for a shock--unless he's been attending a church that worships dragons, wisteria and extra-terrestrials. Fantasy subjects are big in this show, as are the usual Victorian subjects.

A number of the latter are included, despite what county and guild officials call their cliche' subjects, because they show particular technical prowess. For example, Lorraine Potkonski's round panel of a rather mundane dragon contains horseshoe-shaped pieces hard to cut and nearly impossible to solder without shattering. Or Edward Greenawald's wisteria, a commissioned piece that Tiffany himself would be proud to call his own.

"The paying public wants representational or Victorian stuff," Abramson lamented. But the artists want to push toward the abstract, and samples are included in the show. Some, such as Jane Duncan, are doing work that celebrates the glass blower more than the cartoon designer.

In a piece called "Parting of the Depths," Duncan worked with a truly gorgeous, multicolored sheet of glass, adding just a few touches and extra pieces of her own and finding a way to support the heavy panel with the thin lead that her craft allows.

Others, such as Paul Bonnes, who took best in show for two sculpted glass pieces, "forged new dimensions" in glass work, Abramson said. The work, which included sandblasting and laminating, created the two dark-blue and foggy-white pieces that look like a staircase climbing between two icebergs and a piece of glass stuck between two groups of clouds. "He was really reaching out," Abramson said, by way of explanation.

The bulk of the show requires no such explanations--just light and eyes that are not colorblind. Despite a new tendency to use "darker, unexplored" or "ugly" colors in stained glass, the works are still as warm and sparkling as the light that powers them. The cartoons are great fun to watch.

"The Glass Show," sponsored by the National Capital Stained Glass Guild and Arlington County, through Saturday at the Gunston Arts Center, 2700 South Lang St., Arlington. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. tomorrow, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 558-2161, or the Gunston Arts Center at 684-7271.