Top 10 Favorite Arts-Related, Ah, Things From the Past 12 Months

A surfeit of visual-arts splendors and transcendent theatre elevate 2010

1) SALON VANGUARD (SALVAGE VANGUARD THEATER) SVT's fundraiser was just crowded enough to feel convivial, with the catered feast and the live jazz and the old-timey pop tunes and the sidecar-making bartenders and the parlor games and the guest performers perfectly arranged within the elegant architecture and landscaping of Eponymous Garden.

Ian Shults'<i> Fade to Blonde</i>
Ian Shults' Fade to Blonde

2) WALLY WORKMAN GALLERY Helmut Barnett's most recent Workman show exhibited the two-dimensional wonders he can conjure with abstract shapes and an explosion of colors. Also, the first (!) solo show by Ian Shults, a local up-and-comer whose figurative acrylics in "Adult Altercations" rendered mid-20th century scenes with expertise strategically deconstructed.

3) 'BIOGRAPHY OF PHYSICAL SENSATION' (RUBBER REPERTORY) Rubber Rep translated one woman's well-documented personal history into a public evening of sensory events performed on and/or by the audience of 40 people nightly. A frequent postshow response: "I expected it to be weird and uncomfortable, but it was weird and so much fun."

4) VISUAL ARTS CENTER (UT DEPARTMENT OF ART AND ART HISTORY) The VAC opened with a premiere of David Ellis' Animal, the video-documented palimpsest series created during the artist's Landmarks residency. The space itself, the multigallery design, and the sheer, soaring size are best summed up by three letters: OMG.

5) EAST AUSTIN STUDIO TOUR (BIG MEDIUM) Comprising more than 150 venues, the ninth EAST was simply, impressively overwhelming, with a catalog design that equaled the best of what its contents revealed.

6) HYDE PARK THEATRE Ronan Noone's sardonic The Atheist featured actor Joey Hood's best work; the reprise of Morris Panych's Vigil gave us Ken Webster and Lana Dieterich matching each other, nuance for nuance and timing for timing, in note-perfect performances.

7) DOMY BOOKS GALLERY Russell Etchen keeps almost half his beautifully stocked store dedicated to accommodating nothing but the current exhibition, ranging from a Ron Regé Jr. solo show to Andy Coolquitt's curating Austin art-scene memorabilia circa 1988 to, yes, so much more.

8) AUSTIN MUSEUM OF ART The best shows of celebrated out-of-towners – e.g., "American Letterpress: The Art of the Hatch Show Print" and "Chris Jordan: Running the Numbers" – are paired with work by commensurate locals (Luke Savisky, Sunyong Chung). And now AMOA's finishing the year with a Flatbed Press retrospective? Hallelujah!

9) 'FUP DUCK' (TROUBLE PUPPET THEATER COMPANY) Based on Jim Dodge's barnyard parable Fup, this would've been a trifle compared to Trouble Puppet Theater's more serious and complex Frankenstein and The Jungle, but proved transcendent via the White Ghost Shivers' live soundtrack and the formidable narrating skills of Chris Gibson.

10) ????? And then there was ... ah, shit ... the Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival? Fusebox? The reopening of Arthouse? I'd need to do a Top 20, really. Happy New Year!

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Top 10, Salvage Vanguard Theater, Wally Workman Gallery, Helmut Barnett, Ian Shults, Visual Arts Center, East Austin Studio Tour, Big Medium, Austin Museum of Art, Domy Books, Hyde Park Theatre, Ken Webster, Joey Hood, Lana Dieterich, Trouble Puppet Theater Company, Rubber Repertory

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