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Arts & Culture

Best Artistic Effort to Keep African-Americans Austinites
Spectrum Theatre Company

photo by Devaki Knowles

There's little we Austinites like more than congratulating ourselves on our tolerant and liberal city, but a discomforting contradiction to this free-wheeling reputation is the marginalized and proportionately small African-American population that is dwindling just as the city's overall population expands at a brisk rate. The stellar artists at the helm of the newly formed Spectrum Theatre Company have taken a theatrical approach to help reverse this trend and are "on a mission to provide the Austin area with professionally rendered productions representative of the many shades and nuances of the African-American experience." Super luminaries Billy Harden, Carla Nickerson, Jacqui Cross, and Janis Stinson have enriched all of Austin with their performances for years; their new company may just be the artistic tonic to enhance Austin for African-Americans and to bring us all closer to the city we fancy ourselves to be.

Spectrum Theatre Company, 6001 Airport, 512/929-5503, www.spectrumatx.com

Best Author Reading
Andrew Hilbert

Perhaps you’ve seen him but never knew his name? Andrew Hilbert has been touring the Austin circuit since moving from California to Texas in 2011. Whether it is emceeing events shirtless for Foxing Quarterly, doing reoccurring stints at Owen Egerton’s One Page Salon, or clearing rooms at the Whip In with the extremely detailed scab-sorting scene in Flesh House, Hilbert commands an audience’s attention and laughter in a medium where most people would rather rip their own limbs from their bodies than hear another bookworm read aloud. The release of his newest novella, Death Thing, will ensure many more to come.

Andrew Hilbert, www.hilbertheckler.blogspot.com

Best Bossy Babes
#BossBabesATX

After discovering that women often avoid collaborating with each other, Jane Claire, Ashlee Jordan, and Leslie Lozano founded #BossBabesATX to give local creative women a space to learn, connect, and empower each other. Despite only having a handful of meets and workshops so far, the events are selling out fast, proving that the need for a paradigm shift is fierce. Their events will leave you feeling inspired, moved, and equipped to go out and create. They aim to “turn Austin into the kind of city a woman can call home – a-take-off-her-bra-let-down-her-hair-brew-some-coffee-invite-the-crew-spin-some-vinyl-and-throw-herself-into-work kind of home.” Yes, bisssh!

#BossBabesATX, www.bossbabes.org

Best Composer off the Beaten Track
Steve Parker

Music in a traditional auditorium is well and good, but if we've learned one thing from Steve Parker, it's that all the world's a concert hall. This local composer, trombonist, and all-around music-making maverick has placed a dozen trombone players on the Lake Austin shoreline, invited the public to play recycled instruments in the City Hall parking garage, and, in his Soundspace series at the Blanton Museum of Art, marched 100 tubas through the atrium and stuffed soloists in elevators. He'll make music anywhere and with virtually anything, as he proved with Traffic Jam, his recent concert of new music by local composers performed on the asphalt of Blue Starlite Drive-In, with instruments ranging from pedicabs to wheels to car horns by the dozens. His boldness and fervor inspire us and carloads of other music lovers to go off-roading with him at every opportunity. Honk if you love Steve Parker!

Steve Parker, www.steve-parker.net

Best Guardians & Nurturers of Pride
Paul Huddleston, Nathan Garcia, and the Austin Pride Foundation

Let's lay this out plain and simple: These are thankless jobs. Nobody will ever admit to being happy about Pride. The current crew in charge (2011-present) of Austin's annual fest and parade sure take a lot of guff. One school of thought complains that Prides by their nature are not proud, instead kowtowing to corporate overlords. Another says that they are way too permissive in allowing the representation of skin and kink. Or that they didn't order the correct weather for the comfort of attendees. Or that they charge admission. Or that they give to causes. Or, gee whiz, what about the lesbians? Or that they've booked some of the most innovative programming in the history of Austin Prides. Or that they work long, miserable hours for no pay, much to the detriment of their own personal lives, relationships, and bottom lines. Or that for some reason, this wacky festival that everyone seems to have an opinion about (but precious few with these opinions will volunteer to work) has never had one year where they haven't completely diversified and expanded the variety of event offerings, not to mention totally obliterated the previous years' attendance records (over 200,000 at this year's parade alone, according to public safety estimates). Yeah, we can see what the problem is….

Austin Gay & Lesbian Pride Foundation, PO Box 162924, Austin, TX 78746, 512/468-8113, www.fb.com/austinpride

Best Musica in Motion
El Acordeonista Luis

East Austin is home to so many homegrown musical legends; there’s definitely something in the water in the '02. Dressed in his classic caballero boots and hat, Luis travels the streets en route to the neighborhood restaurants and bars, with his squeezebox busting out traditional canciones. His music carries through the pecan trees, and for a magical moment, it’s as if the timeless roots of the neighborhood are back in bloom.

Best New Public Sculpture
Monochrome for Austin

photo by John Leach

At the corner of 24th & Speedway, steel cables hoist a messy (but deliberate) arrangement of 70 aluminum canoes and small boats above the heads of UT campus visitors. This new addition to the university's Landmarks installation series was designed by sculptor Nancy Rubins – internationally renowned for utilizing awe-inspiring excess and improbable delicacy to reveal the beauty of form in everyday heavy junk. Just don't lean on it.

Landmarks, landmarks.utexas.edu/contact

Best Off-the-Grid Artist
Terry Tunes

photo by John Leach

Chances are you've never heard the name, but this pioneer of the Austin punk rock scene has been making amazing art, completely off the grid, for at least 20 years. After a serious illness left him unable to work, his fascination with toys, alongside uncanny carpentry skills and boundless imagination, led him to a new "career" path. Terry Tunes makes monumental sculptures from discarded plastic toys, some of which have been on display at the Georgetown Public Library. He also makes dioramas based on the life and music of Roky Erickson, all completely not for profit – a policy he should seriously reconsider.

Terry Tunes, 208 San Gabriel, off RR 214, Liberty Hill, www.fb.com/terry.tunes.3

Best Reason to Raise Your Voice
LOLA Austin

Whatever LOLA wants, LOLA gets. So it seems for the scrappy little classical-music company known as Local Opera, Local Artists. Founded by mezzo-soprano Liz Cass and director Rebecca Herman to mount the world's first version of La Bohème cast entirely with women, LOLA not only produced that show to sold-out houses and great praise (and a trio of Critics Table Awards), but also staged a three-character cabaret take on Carmen, scheduled a revival of La Femme Bohème for Valentine's Day 2016, and commissioned a new opera from Austin composer Peter Stopschinski and playwright Kirk Lynn for fall 2017. We love how LOLA stages opera in a bar (the North Door), used proceeds from its crowdfunding campaigns to support Safe Place and the Veteran's Guitar Project, and turned its first birthday party into a celebration of all local opera. LOLA truly lives by its motto: "We all sing better together."

LOLA Austin, 512/516-7967, www.lolaaustin.org

Best Return of a Literary Icon
Pat Littledog

Pat Littledog and now ex-husband Chuck Taylor grew Paperbacks Plus into literary central for Eighties Austin. Then known as Pat Ellis Taylor, Littledog made waves when Atlantic Monthly Press published her semi-autobiographical and slyly feminist novel-in-stories Afoot in a Field of Men. It follows a thirtysomething hippie named Pat in an era when hippies were feeling the sting of time and responsibility. Taylor's Slough Press just re-released the book and revealed again what a wise, funny, and refreshing writer Littledog is.

Pat Littledog, 512/850-7571

Best Street Photographer on Sixth
Jeff Vaillancourt

photo by Jeff Vaillancourt

For the uninitiated, street photography is, well, photos taken on the street – of life, of people, of raw emotion. Street photographers are artists capturing moments in time, but they're often disguised as mild-mannered, middle-aged guys with cameras, like Jeff Vaillancourt. A California transplant, Vaillancourt doesn't make his living as a photog, but he enriches his life by haunting Sixth Street and capturing its poetry and grit – the lovers embracing in the rain, the drunk ejected from a bar and prone in the gutter, musicians plying their trade. Vaillancourt sees it through his lens and gladly shares it with us all.

Vaillancourt Photography, www.vaillancourtphotography.com

Best Throwback Photography
Lumiere Tintype

photo by Shelley Hiam

We stumbled upon Lumiere’s Tintype Photography’s mobile booth during EAST and instantly fell in love. The 150-year-old photo process is a perfect marriage of science and art (and makes for a super rad Instagram: @lumiere_tintype). Owner and operator Adrian Whipp makes beautiful and haunting images from a small mobile booth that normally sits at Justine’s Brasserie, but can be moved to other locations. Tintype reacts to colors differently than your standard black & white photos, so blues appear almost white while reds can come through as black. Bring in your friends, family, or pets for a photo session, or sit for a solo portrait and leave with a beautiful, unique metal print.

Lumiere Tintype, 4710 E. Fifth, 512/800-0267, www.lumieretintype.com

Best Unsung Film Scene Force
Gary Bond

photo by David Brendan Hall

Need a permit to shoot near the Capitol? Want stats on Austin film production? Don't phone a hipster; call the tall guy. Since 1985, a soft-spoken, smart, and funny pro named Gary Bond has been Austin film's savior. In July he quietly retired as the head of the Austin Film Commission and has left some big shoes to fill. The former radio newsman exits with more knowledge of the Austin film scene than just about anybody. All that, and he's a genuine nice guy who loves to eat (and cook) pie. He'll be missed.

Austin Film Commission, 111 Congress #700, 512/583-7230, www.austintexas.org/film-commission

Best Zen Inducing Art Installation
The Color Inside: A Skyspace by James Turrell

Artist James Turrell uses light and space as both his tools and materials, and the University of Texas is lucky to host one of his few public installations – an outdoor dream pod called the Skyspace. Reserve a spot at sunset to witness an hour of gradual sky changes, moody color transitions, and the chance to let your brain go wandering. Whether you want to feel like you’re in outer space or choose to explore the deepest folds of your subconscious, the Skyspace will encourage the ultimate out-of-body experience right in the middle of campus.

James Turrell Skyspace, University of Texas at Austin, 3 Student Activity Center, 2201 Speedway, 512/495-4315, www.utexas.edu/cofa/turrell

Most Anticipated Shipwreck
La Belle

Earlier this year, about 11,000 square feet of the first floor of exhibition space at the Bullock Texas State History Museum was closed for renovations. Renovations is an understatement. The Bullock is preparing for the permanent resting place of La Belle, the ill-fated ship belonging to French colonialist Robert de La Salle. Artifacts of the 300-year-old vessel were found in Matagorda Bay along the Texas coast in the Nineties, leading to the discovery and excavation of the entire shipwreck, one of the most significant archaeological finds in Texas history. And it's all at the Bullock! In 2016, the museum space will reopen with the reconstructed ship for all to see.

Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 Congress, 512/936-4629, www.thestoryoftexas.com

Best Actor
Martin Burke

Did you have to see Mothers and Sons at Zach to realize what a consummate and serious actor Burke is? Because you were so used to his acerbically hilarious tour-de-force as Crumpet the Elf in the annual production of David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries? Well, now you know – it's not all in the timing, it's also in the skill and concentration and sheer, relentless talent that this popular performer brings to whatever role he's cast in.

Martin Burke, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Burke

Best Actress
Gricelda Silva

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

What's that thing about big dynamite in small packages? Gricelda Silva, long a prime actor in this town's theatre scene, pretty much exploded across stages everywhere this year. Whether working the papier-maché creatures of Trouble Puppet or Glass Half Full, playing the wicked child in Reina Hardy's Changelings at the Vortex, dealing with her Cinderella stepfamily in Zach Theatre's Cenicienta, or helping modernly Mexicanize Chekhov in Teatro Vivo's El Nogalar, the vivacious performer's impact has left our city smiling and amazed.

Gricelda Silva, www.fb.com/g33sil

Best Arts Festival
TIE: EAST; Pecan Street Festival

Meandering: The human activity of meandering binds the two winners of this category. You'll need a map to navigate the entirety of East Austin Studio Tour (but if you hit the artist-dense Pump Project and Canopy, you'll have plenty to see), while the Pecan Street Festival is easy (as long as you remember that Sixth street used to go by a different name). Either way, you'll be up-close and personal with the artists and craftsfolk whose wares you're perusing – the best way, by any stretch of the legs, to see and buy art.

East Austin Studio Tour, 916 Springdale Bldg. 2 #101, 512/939-6665, www.eastaustinstudiotour.com

Pecan Street Festival, Sixth Street from Brazos to I-35, www.pecanstreetfestival.org

Best Classical Performer(s)
Conspirare

We raise a chorus of hallelujahs to the vault of heaven when considering the vocal wonders this world-premiering, Grammy-winning, Billboard-charting choral group led by the ever-ebullient Craig Hella Johnson has done in and for our music-loving town. Whether working with outside composers (Nico Muhly) or guest vocalists (Ruthie Foster) or just doing their own glorious eclectic thing, Conspirare not only breathes but soars on wings of polyphonous song.

Conspirare, 505 E. Huntland #155, 512/476-5775, www.conspirare.org

Best Clothing Designer
Gail Chovan

Walk into Gail Chovan's Blackmail Boutique on SoCo and you will immediately sense history on a hanger. There are the broad sweeping lines of Gothic architecture evinced in a lengthy dress – her inspiration, perhaps, coming from Notre Dame and the other buildings in Paris, where Chovan often summers. And then there's this meticulous maven's punky pomo deconstruction, a call-out to our contemporary moment. Regardless, Chovan is blessed with the broad sweep (of history).

Blackmail, 1202 S. Congress, 512/804-5881, www.blackmailboutique.com

Best Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist
Tim Doyle

With a lean toward sci-fi and the surreal, Tim Doyle’s work is delightfully out of this world. Star Wars and superhero fans alike will want a print (or five) of his fan art, and Doyle’s concert posters would make stylish additions to any music lover’s home. As a kid, Doyle only found joy “in comic books and television and video games.” Thankfully for the rest of us, he’s brought that joy to the Austin art scene.

Tim Doyle, 512/940-3838, www.mrdoyle.com

Best Composer
Graham Reynolds

Austin's Teutonic-looking maestro with the long hair and snazzy suits, ah, is there a busier composer in the Western world? Writing scores for feature films, conjuring soundtracks for theatre and dance companies, journeying to Japan to provide music for Allison Orr's choreographing of a professional baseball team, partnering with Peter Stopschinski to raise the roof with their Golden Hornet Project, readying to wrap up the final part of his Marfa Triptych, holding down a monthlong residency with his Golden Arm Trio at Dive Bar in August – no wonder our readers give Reynolds the biggest ups here.

Best Dancer or Dance Company
Ballet Austin

Artistic Director Stephen Mills exploded onto the Austin arts scene during the 1999-2000 season, eventually landing his current role, attracting attention across the country with his world-premiere production of Hamlet, featuring the music of Philip Glass. The show returned for the 2015 season. Mills' sinewy, sexy, (and not infrequently, sassy) work can be seen in the upcoming Snow White or in the perennially popular Nutcracker. The company doesn't just keep audiences on the edge of their seats, they also make Austin dance positively interactive. Visit them once and you will see, from baby ballerinas doing pliés and tendus to Pilates professionals doing twists and reaches. The studios are massive, as is the schedule of classes and workshops. Whether you are interested in ballet, hip-hop, hula, jazz, or simply just working out, Ballet Austin spreads the love of dance and invites the public in.

Ballet Austin, 501 W. Third, 512/476-9151, www.balletaustin.org

Best Independent Art Gallery
Women & Their Work

Establishing a space for the visual legacy of female artists isn't just a mission, it's a vision. For over 37 years (and still going strong), Women & Their Work has been an exhibition space for contemporary art that is innovative and original. Their yearly open calls ensure that their programming ranges in material and content, and their 1,700-square-foot gallery is perfect for site-responsive works, such as the dark and moody cityscape in Kira Lynn Harris' Glittering Dystopias.

Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca, 512/477-1064, www.womenandtheirwork.org

Best Live Comedy Show/Series
Esther's Follies

Named after actress and swimmer Esther Williams, Esther's Follies revels in the range of high satire and low-brow cheeky humor. Things have gone swimmingly for yuksters Shannon Sedwick, Ray Anderson, Michael Shelton, and the crew. The colorful cast of this modern-day vaudeville venue has incorporated improv, political satire, magic, alcohol, and juggling for more than 30 years: a combination for success. Anything and everything can (and has) happened here.

Esther's Follies, 525 E. Sixth, 512/320-0553, www.esthersfollies.com

Best Local Author/Poet
Owen Egerton

From the small stage to the big screen to the fine print, Owen Egerton has razed a long-running trail of hilarity through Austin. While best known for co-founding Master Pancake, his comedic skill shines through in his writing, How Best to Avoid Dying and Everyone Says That at the End of the World. Warner Brothers also has a fondness for Egerton, and is developing a TV series based on his novel The Book of Harold.

Owen Egerton, www.owenegerton.com

Best Museum
Blanton Museum of Art

The best part of being a student at UT is the free entry into one of the largest university art museums in the country. Before you even get to the featured artwork, a beautiful staircase surrounded by walls of gradient, sparkling blue tile greets you – itself a work of art, Stacked Waters by Teresita Fernandez – inspiring awe. The permanent collection of art is profound and unforgettable, but leaves art lovers yearning to come back for another look. Thoughtful and diverse, fancy and fun, the Blanton is a place to learn, to look, to love, and it just keeps on getting better.

The Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. MLK, 512/471-7324, www.blantonmuseum.org

Best None of the Above Show
BedPost Confessions

This year's been a year of heady experimentation for the BedPost Confessions crew. The groundbreaking show is now held quarterly, making room for new ventures such as (un)Spoken, a venue for the topics rarely touched upon in polite conversation (mental illness, pregnancy, the loss of love). We sense a pupal metamorphosis … a new becoming, and with it, even more opportunities to stun Austin audiences with the power of story.

Bedpost Confessions, www.bedpostconfessions.com

Best Performance Space
The Long Center

You got your majestic 2,442-seat Michael & Susan Dell Hall, your black boxy Debra & Kevin Rollins Studio Theatre that can seat 229, your City Terrace (our town's front porch), courtyard, and West Lawn: The Long isn't just Austin's best performance space, but it's our city's hallowed hall of performance spaces, just ask residents Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin, Austin Lyric Opera, and recurring SXSW guest Jimmy Kimmel who brings his late-night antics to town – among others. No seat is a bad seat at the Long Center, even if you're standing. And the view of the Austin skyline from this iconic building is stunning – a performance on its own.

Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside, 512/474-5664, www.thelongcenter.org

Best Street Artist
TIE: Truth; Chris Rogers

photo by Jana Birchum

Mike "Truth" Johnston's work is gleefully dweeby: a "Last Supper" featuring the characters of Nintendo's Mario franchise, the Notorious B.I.G. wearing a cartoon crown, and bulky creatures with massive overbites. On the other end of the street art spectrum is the graphic/expressionist paintwork of Chris Rogers. Mashing up a multitude of musical heroes (James Brown, Michael Jackson, and others) his almost brushy mural at 12th & Chicon is a good summation of this street artist's skill. Although, if we have to claim a favorite mural of this prolific painter, it's the one that graces the facade of the incomparable Nubian Queen Lola's.

Truth, www.mikejohnstonartist.com

Chris Rogers, www.about.me/rogersc727

Best Theatre Director
Dave Steakley

What it is about Zach Theatre that grabs the attention of dramaphiles not just locally but across the country? Well, the sizzle's in the Steakley. For almost a quarter of a century, Dave Steakley has been staging plays that dazzle eyes and ears while engaging hearts and minds. Whether he's reimagining a classic, as with his contemporary pop-infused A Christmas Carol, mounting an epic look back at history, as with his regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning civil rights drama All the Way, or providing an intimate look at family, as in the domestic drama Mothers and Sons, Zach's producing artistic director makes theatre that's vibrant and vital. On the shores of Lady Bird Lake, he's built a powerhouse playhouse.

Dave Steakley, Topfer Theatre at Zach, 202 S. Lamar, www.zachtheatre.org

Best Visual Artist
TIE: Jenn Hassin, Jennifer Balkan

Jenn Hassin (l) and Jennifer Balkan   photo by Devaki Knowles

The two local artists who share the award for Best Visual Artist this year each have their own thing going in terms of media and subject matter: Jenn Hassin uses handmade paper that she meticulously rolls and piles onto surfaces until they roil with movement, reflecting on war and loss. Jennifer Balkan's painted portraits of women (often tatted and pierced) wearing animal noses and Groucho glasses are riffs on something surrealist/proto-feminist artist Claude Cahun said nearly 75 years ago: "Under this mask, another mask."

Jenn Hassin, www.jennhassin.com

Jennifer Balkan, www.jenniferbalkan.net

Best Captains of the Cap
SprATX

Fine art is dead art. Locked up in museums, away from ordinary life. Finished and "complete," inert once it is hung on the wall or displayed in a case. SprATX does not make fine art. SprATX makes living art. Art that is in the streets, art that is active and ephemeral. This collective of street artists, muralists, and creatniks channel their aesthetic energies into visual works that benefit the community: live street-art exhibitions, pop-up galleries, and custom mural paintings for local shops, events, and charities. Probably the coolest thing SprATX (pronounced spray-tee-ex) does, though, is #atxfreeartfriday. Every Friday, local artists create and hide art to be discovered. Search the tag on Instagram to seek clues or contribute your own work. Art free like a wild stallion. Art free like a complimentary continental breakfast.

SprATX, 501 Pedernales, Unit 2A, 512/200-3482, www.spratx.com

Best Choral Wrangler
Brent Baldwin

Big doesn't bother Brent Baldwin. A three-part, two-hour 19th century oratorio on the creation of the cosmos? No problem. A seven-section 20th century experimental epic translation of Confucius lasting seven hours? Sure. A 12-movement riff on Mozart's Requiem, with contemporary composers filling in the gaps left empty when Wolfgang Amadeus died? Bring it. The fact that this fearless leader of Texas Choral Consort has not only tackled these monumental projects and more, but typically done so while conducting an orchestra of two to three dozen instrumentalists and a choir of up to 150 singers marks him as a master of choral coordination. He's able to draw from these massed voices booming thunder, angelic sweetness, and dying whispers on a breeze, with a striking richness of balance and harmony. Bigger isn't always better, but when Baldwin is wrangling the choir, it may well be best.

Texas Choral Consort, Texas Choral Consort, 512/372-3233, www.txconsort.org

Best Dress Blues
Allen Mack and the Living History Foundation

photo by Celesta Danger

We love a man in uniform. Especially a man who dresses in full blue Union woolies in 100-degree heat ready to tell the true tales about the glories of America's Buffalo Soldiers. Brave men of color fought to preserve a union that still struggles with manifesting true equality (or let's not mince: still actively oppresses) today. Allen Mack, the man behind Austin's Living History Foundation, often can be seen in his full regalia at the corner of MLK & Airport raising money and awareness to send the 62nd United States Colored Troop to Corpus Christi (May, 2015) to participate in the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Palmito Ranch – the only battle in Texas involving "colored" troops and the last battle fought in the Civil War. While wars are exactly the sort of histories we hope never to repeat, learning the truths about them can lead to understanding which can begin to right the wrongs.

Living History Foundation, 512/578-6267, www.fb.com/livinghistoryfoundation

Best East 11th Holdouts
Victory Grill and Kenny Dorham's Backyard

The redevelopment of East 11th has occurred in fits and starts, but the fact that it's moving ever further from its roots as a predominantly African-American business and entertainment district has been obvious (and rather disconcerting) for a while. All the better, then, that its loft- and cocktail-seekers can still experience the historic Victory Grill, holding steady with renewed food service and and uptick in backroom shows, and adjacent outdoor venue Kenny Dorham's Backyard, the only place on the street that still features steady bookings of African-American music, as well as welcoming neighborhood events. It remains to be seen how long these places will exist, but the cultural work they do in the meantime is invaluable.

Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th, 512/291-6211, atxhistoricvictorygrill.org/

Kenny Dorham's Backyard, 1106 E. 11th, 512/477-9438, www.diversearts.org

Best Electrical Conductor
Richard Buckley

photo by Bret Brookshire

The charge you feel – the one that sets your hairs on end and skin tingling – when you're present for an Austin Lyric Opera production has everything to do with the music coming from the orchestra, and that has everything to do with the maestro leading it. In the decade that he's been wielding the baton for ALO, Richard Buckley has proven to have an innate feel for opera's heightened emotion and high drama – it runs like a current through his veins. And it doesn't matter if the composer is Donizetti or Verdi, Mozart or Glass, he's able to communicate all its beauty, power, tension, lyricism, humor, and heartbreak to the musicians under his command so that they transmit it to our ears in sounds that thrill. Since Buckley's been in the pit, opera has never sounded so ravishing and intense – and electrifying.

Richard Buckley, Austin Lyric Opera, 901 Barton Springs Rd., www.austinlyricopera.org

Best Film Festival Moment
It Happened at the Housecore Horror Film Festival

Tearing ourselves away from a scintillating conversation at the Austin Film Festival with directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Jonathan Demme in order to arrive on time for a unique screening of Dario Argento's Suspiria with the original members of Goblin playing their haunting soundtrack live at the inaugural Housecore Horror Film Festival was one of those quintessential Austin moments that reminds us of Austin's incredible bounty of cultural riches.

Housecore Horror Festival, 1801 Salina, 512/478-4795, www.housecorehorrorfilmfestival.com

Best Label-Defying Art Faun
Aaron Flynn

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

When we look at the world (bleak, grim) and think, "Where is the art?", we just close our eyes, click our heels thrice, and repeat this mantra: Aaron Flynn! Aaron Flynn! Aaron Flynn! How to categorize the output of this wunderkind? Painter of totemic animalistic heraldry, window-dresser extraordinaire (the window of Parisian-influenced Blackmail is a regular Flynn "canvas"), concert-poster ideographer, frequent collaborator (Ben Aqua, Billy Beasty, amongst others) – in other words – life magician. And like the best conjurers, one isn't aware of the mountains of work (Sweat! Tears! Nail Polish!) that go into such arty productions, only that the world is made better, brighter, and entirely anew with each flourish of this foppish faun's fingers.

Aaron Flynn, www.aaronflynn.tumblr.com

Best Multimedia Meme
"In the Company of Cats and Dogs" Exhibit at the Blanton

Is it any wonder that cats and dogs are plastered all over the Internet? As a species, we’ve been gaga over them for quite some time. The Blanton got to the heart of our complex intergenus relationships with its summer exhibit “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” featuring a deftly curated array of artists and media, from Egyptian cat sculptures to Internet videos: Hogarth engravings and weird Dutch protosurrealism; Wegman’s photographs (of course), but also Picasso’s poodle collage and Goya’s storm clouds. Topping it off? A hashtagged contest featuring viewers’ photo re-creations of a work from the show. #Squee.

The Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. MLK, 512/471-7324, www.blantonmuseum.org

Best Place to Spit a Rhyme
Austin Mic Exchange

Jonesing for some great up-and-coming rap without the trek to Houston? Look no further than the Austin Mic Exchange. Each week, this group invites artists from across the city to showcase their best rhymes in a freestyle showdown at the Spider House Ballroom in an effort to bring together previously disparate elements in the scene. In just two years, the event has become a central hub of Austin hip-hop spit and artistic exchange – they even have plans to host their first Weird City Hip Hop Festival this fall. For their weekly gigs, it's best to arrive early, because each night kicks off with warm and welcoming cypher outside the venue. Bring your rap game, your dance shoes, and prepare to enter Austin's hip-hop critical mass.

Austin Mic Exchange, www.austinmicexchange.com

Best Produce Aisle Aria
Austin Lyric Opera at Central Market

Tosca is one of the most popular operas performed in the United States and has done much to translate the art's charms for modern audiences. Austin Lyric Opera pushed that populism a little further last January, when it produced a flash mob at Central Market North Lamar and burst forth with an aria from that very opera. The combination of pros in their street clothes, blending in with the crowd, toasting with beer as appropriate to the lyrics, enchanting children, and being presented with flowers was sweet and stirring inspiration, if one were needed, to check out the whole performance.

Austin Lyric Opera, 901 Barton Springs Rd., 512/472-5927, www.austinlyricopera.org

Best Roots Revival
Ballet Afrique

photo by Dwayne Hills, Ballet Afrique

China Smith launched her inspiring Ballet Afrique out of a desire to create a deep cultural link for Central Texas African-Americans. Black roots are too often framed in Western terms, under the heart-aching legacy and shadow of slavery. As a young dancer, Smith studied with a melting pot of movement culture: Dallas Black Dance, Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance, Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Boyd Vance, and Alvin Ailey. African dance is her heritage, and in founding the Ballet Afrique Contemporary Dance Company (as well as the Ballet Afrique Dance Academy, with classes for all ages), she's opened space to accommodate deeper roots. Too many Austin kids of color (especially African colors) have too few higher-art touchstones beyond sports, arts & crafts, or pop culture. Smith & company exist as an homage to African roots, and a fertile soil for all ages to keep them growing.

Ballet Afrique, 6001 Airport, 512/228-7060, www.balletafriqueaustin.org

Best Use of Flamingos
Flamingo Mitote at Patterson Park

Patterson Park's gone to the birds, as witness the brilliance (especially in full-on sunlight) of Stefanie Distefano's Flamingo Mitote wrapping the poolside utility building in polychrome avian finery composed of hundreds of perfectly orchestrated shards of mirror glass and tile, bringing a landmark of ceramic opulence to this beloved bastion of outdoor recreation.

Patterson Park, 4201 Brookview, 512/477-7273

Best Work-in-Progress
One Page Salon

Local literato Owen Egerton hosts this once-monthly salon featuring local pro and semi-pro writers sharing one page of a work in progress with an eager, supportive crowd. Some of the work is quite polished indeed, while some if it is, uh, nascent. But in this space, it's all good. Since its inception in late 2013, the Salon has hosted high-flying novelists like Sarah Bird, a couple of local food writers, screenwriters, political wonks, and poets. Nestled in the cozy performance/lounge space of the Whip In, Egerton leads all assembled through an evening of laughs, appreciation of craft, and wine.

Whip In, 1950 S. I-35, 512/442-5337, www.whipin.com

Coolest Bookstore
Farewell Books

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

When Austin's Domy Books shut down in 2013, a Kickstarter was launched by its former staff to fund a successor at the same site: Farewell Books. Just as Domy did, this progressive bookstore specializes in rare art books and esoteric tomes. The whole selection is meticulously curated to pique the interests of the urban intellectual. Essays by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze comparing capitalism and schizophrenia, a Joycean tome of gibberish wordplay called "Meatphysics," an ultraviolent graphic novel made in the style of underground zines, what appears to be an actual samizdat. And everything is in Helvetica. Farewell also doubles as a community hub for the Austin arts scene. The gallery that takes up half the building's space holds a new opening for a local artist every six weeks. Other cool arts stuff happens on the regular: release parties, poetry readings, and performances. It's safe to say that this bookstore is independent with a capital 'I.'

Farewell Books, 913 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/473-2665, www.farewellbookstore.com

Most-Improved Fashion Event
Austin Fashion Week

Yes, it started out in 2009 on a bumpy road, only catering to those who paid to participate, but each subsequent year has brought vast improvement. Fashion in Austin has evolved as fast as Austin itself, and Austin Fashion Week's goal is to make our town a couture capital. Completing it's sixth and largest year last May, AFW's Matt Swinney has wrangled a partnership with the UT Apparel Design program, including it in future fashion weeks. The goal moving forward is to constantly elevate local designers by exposing their work to all-star-level and emerging designers from outside Austin. All of this national attention is great, but where are the buyers? By expanding into Dallas and working with FIG (Fashion Industry Gallery), AFW's Dallas events this year will attract a huge buyer population, hopefully encouraging buyers to also travel to Austin next Spring.

Austin Fashion Week, www.fashionweekaustin.com

Tastiest Way to Work Geek Culture Into Your Dinner
Kitchen Overlord

Contrary to popular opinion, geek culture isn’t a monolith. There are as many unique tastes as there are stars in the Verse – and Chris-Rachael Oseland has a dish to match many of them. The self-styled Kitchen Overlord crafts tasty plates that riff on genre subcultures in easy-to-follow recipes, many of which are cleverly illustrated by Tom Gordon. Flip for comic books? Try Deadpool’s Chimichangas. Nerd hard for sci-fi noir? Rick’s Replicant Chow Street Noodles should satisfy your yen. Sweet on epic fantasy? Take a bite out of You Know Nothing, Snow!, a gingerbread dessert. True, these recipes require more work than opening a bag of chips, but we think this is a much better way to feed your fandom.

Kitchen Overlord, www.kitchenoverlord.com

Best Actor
TIE: Matthew Redden; Michael Joplin

That impressive Matthew Redden, still smoldering from his bright triumph in In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, most recently galvanized the Zach Theatre stage in the musical role of Captain Walker in The Who's Tommy. The popular Michael Joplin, when he's not making love to the vinyl as DJ Manateemann, is an improv maestro with those Available Cupholders and the Known Wizards and Brain Trust – or blessing any given script by embodying characters in dramas at theatres all over the ATX.

Matthew Redden, www.fb.com/matthew.redden.585

Michael Joplin, www.fb.com/mjoplin

Best Actress
TIE: Adriene Mishler; Barbara Chisholm

Adriene Mishler's renowned yoga skills are not what landed her the plum voiceover roles as both Lois Lane and Supergirl in DC Universe Online, but mayyyybe her Sun Salutation influences the talent she brings to big-screen roles in Austin High and David Gordon Green's Joe and more. Barbara Chisholm's been a thespian force of nature for years – her powerful Constance in the Rude Mechs' recent Fixing King John may be her onstage apotheosis – but we reckon the way she shines in small sparkly glimmers as mom's loyal friend, Carol, in Richard Linklater's Boyhood is currently on the minds of most readers here.

Adriene Mishler, www.yogawithadriene.com

Barbara Chisholm, www.colliertalent.com

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