Arts & Culture
1999 Readers Poll
1999 Critics Picks
Best (multi)cultural Stage

Located on East Seventh Street, the center now brings some of the best and most exciting cultural and offbeat programming to East Austin. The Center continues to physically expand with the recent addition of offices and storage space. Its programming is also growing with local theatre groups using the facilities on a more frequent basis. It's also home of Aztlan Folk Dance Company; keep an eye out for their seasonal performances.

Santa Cruz Center for Culture
1805 E. Seventh

Best Art Space Where Everything Clicks

While the Austin Museum of Art - Downtown awaits its ultimate makeover by architect Richard Gluckman, last fall found the museum performing a little nip and tuck of its own, raising the bar on its exhibits, especially its photography. "Modotti and Weston: Mexicanidad" was a memorable survey of Mexico in the mid- to late Twenties. In November came "The Complete Untitled Film Stills" by Cindy Sherman, whose self-reflexive, ironic series found the photographer herself posing as weepy B-movie stars of the Fifties and Sixties. Meanwhile, AMOA's sister site Laguna Gloria offered the haunting, evocative work of Sally Mann's 25-year career, including the controversial and unforgettable series of nude photos of her three children. Will next season be even better? Just shoot.

The Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria
3809 W. 35th

Devaki Knowles

Best Dancer Of Versatility & Dynamism

Our recent visits to Ballet Austin have held many pleasures but perhaps none so exhilarating as the evolution of company member Christopher Hannon. Over the past few seasons, the athletic young dancer with the large, soulful eyes has proven himself a chameleon of the ballet. He has dazzled us in serious parts well-suited to his age and skills - in Ulysses, his Telemachus was a coiled spring of frustration - but he's been equally striking in comic roles, crafting a coy, impetuous, otherworldly Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a sly, languid partner to Karen Kuykendall in a segment of Kisses, and a classic nerd awkwardly attempting balletic grace in the spoof The Nutzy Nutcracker. With this versatility and his unfailing vigor and precision of execution, Hannon has taken our breath away.

Christopher Hannon
Ballet Austin Studio
3002 Guadalupe

Best Diva

For the purposes of this award, the word "diva" is used in the classical sense, i.e., the divine, a goddess. For little short of heaven does justice to the exquisite Ms. Kuykendall. When she takes the stage, it's as if the sun has broken through a bank of storm clouds; there is light in her presence, her poise, her diamond-cut wit. Her voice is, in the lexicon of cognac, VSOP, and when she sings, she intoxicates you with the same smoky burn that you get from a snifter of fine brandy. Whether she's caressing Cole Porter in a cabaret ballad or ripping up the stage in a show such as Full Gallop, Kuykendall makes going to the theatre a visit to Paradise.

Best Guy To Have In The House When The Show Might Not Go On

The performance is set to start at 8pm. At 7:30pm, an actor hasn't shown and no one can reach him. Under most circumstances, this is cause for cancellation. But not if you have Marco Noyola in the house, as OnStageProductions did one night during its run of The Hound of the Baskervilles last year. A half-hour before curtain, cast members found Noyola in the audience and pressed him into service. He was given a costume to wear and a script to scan, and shortly after eight, Noyola took to the stage without even a script in hand. Amazingly, he pulled it off - with style - but more amazing is the fact that Noyola has been drafted for this kind of duty before. Apparently, he has a knack for being on hand when theatrical crises arise, and at The Public Domain, where he's a company member, his stage savvy and cool under pressure have saved several shows. We're applauding his ability and keeping his number handy.

Best Literary Resurrection

Several weeks ago, it was announced that the tiny house in Kyle in which Katherine Anne Porter (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall") grew up is soon to be a writer's center and library accessible to the public. Porter is probably turning in her grave just now, surprised to learn that she is finally attaining the endorsement as a Texas writer that had largely eluded her while she was alive. But she'd be heartened to know that the Katherine Anne Porter House Restoration Committee has raised nearly one million dollars to fully fix up a house that was bought for $10 in 1904.

Katherine Anne Porter House
508 Center Street

photo by John Anderson

Best Local Film Trend

Austinites were lucky enough to see more than half a dozen scored "silents" this year. The Alamo Drafthouse gave us Guy Forsyth and friends doing Buster Keaton's The General, ST 37's retro-futurist take on Metropolis, and Nosferatu paired with the unclassifiable stylings of Brown Whörnet. Additionally, the Gypsies provided suitably eerie backup for Todd Browning's Unknown, the Golden Arm Trio roused the rabble with Battleship Potemkin, and Graham Reynolds did a stark solo piano accompaniment for Lillian Gish's The Wind. Factor in the privilege of hearing Gillian Armstrong conducting the restored score of Wings with a full orchestra at the Paramount, and you have Austin's most promising new film tradition.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

Best Museum Outgrowing Itself

From its tiny beginnings in a 300-square-foot space in the former Arts Warehouse, Mexic-Arte Museum has grown to become the city's premier showcase for Latino art. Now situated on the corner of Fifth & Congress in a 20,000+ square-foot building, Mexic-Arte's future plans include renovation and purchase of their building, expanding services and facilities, and promoting their Mexican art exhibits statewide. Their unique collaboration with Mexican institutions keeps them focused, resulting in exhibits which are inspiring, innovative, and educational.

Mexic-Arte Museum
419 Congress

Best Play-full Wordsmith

Even the stumble of last fall's Salivation can't drop the wisdom and beauty of Lust Supper and Crucks, the first two parts of Lynn's ambitious Faminly Trilogy. Note his award-winning Rude Mechanicals IPO, Pale Idiot, too, and his recent adaptations of print classics by Greil Marcus and Donald Barthelme. This is a gloriously busy man, here.

Best Room With A View

This is a sterling arts venue, but what really makes the Helms such a swell destination for an arts night out is walking around the building and suddenly seeing the land drop away toward the Colorado below, and the layers of rolling hills on the far shore. Before stepping inside, amble about the hilltop at St. Stephen's and marvel at how nature can improve one's appreciation of the arts.

St. Stephens Academy
2900 Bunny Run

photo by John Anderson

Best Thing On Paper

This exhibition at UT's Blanton Museum of Art is a precious collection of drawings preserved for hundreds of years on paper so delicate it makes you want to weep. With works by Raphael, Farinati, Cambiaso, Guercino, and Boucher, the fine detail of these drawings invite the eye to gaze closely - and for a long time. Our only complaint about this exhibition - part of the $35 million Suida-Manning collection - is its short run. Get in to see it before it closes next month on October 24.

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK

Best Trip To The Sixties

All ex-presidents do the library thing, but LBJ drew one of the wildest cards of this century, the tumultuous Sixties, and his library is like no other. Including a near-lifesized replica of the Oval Office, there are countless mementos from this extraordinary time. The profound depictions of the cultural revolution cut to the quick. Using music, film, and images in state-of-the-art presentations, the gloriously incoherent Sixties are revisited in a mysteriously healing way. We're not ashamed to admit it: We choked up and will forever be haunted by LBJ's words: "We tried." Admission free.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
2313 Red River

Best Works Of Art On Food Wrappers

Wrap is a genuine art form, or at least a genuine art medium. There's no denying it when viewing the Coffey creations done up in pen and ink on the pastry wrappers that hold Jo's fabulous baked goods. From kitschy superheroes to Kit the Sexy Cowgal, Coffey's artwork is eye-catching and, well, funky.

Jo's Coffee
1300 S. Congress

Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

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