Arts & Culture
2002 Readers Poll
2002 Critics Picks
Best Addendum to the University of Texas at Austin

Established last year as a site dedicated to research and production in contemporary art and design, this new exhibition space, directed by local artist and UT graduate Cynthia Camlin, is a great addition to the already fine programming offered by the Art and Art History Department at UT. Besides a year round schedule of exhibitions showcasing work by UT students and faculty, CRL also facilitates workshops, performances, demonstrations, seminars, and collaborations, like the terrific improvisational blues performance by New York artist Terry Adkins. It is places like these that make us realize the benefits of having a first rate university in the neighborhood.

Creative Research Laboratory
2832 E. MLK

Best Digital Society

"The Austin Museum of Digital Art (AMODA) is a non-profit institution that promotes access to and appreciation of digital art. Currently AMODA is a nomadic institution, holding exhibitions, showcases, lectures, youth programs and other events at various locations around Austin, often in collaboration with other arts and educational organizations ..."I like AMODA because it is a great way to see digital art and music. In adition to flying in big name talent AMODA showcases a number of local digital artists.

photo by John Anderson

Best Illusion

Recently on view at the Blanton as a part of the "Timeframe" exhibit, this framed and mounted color video triptych by internationally renowned video artist Bill Viola was purchased by the local museum for its permanent collection. At first glance, the odd video installation did not look like much to the cursory viewer. But for those who stopped to look were literally brought to a standstill. Taken from the Latin word for "soul," Anima depicts three people whom Viola directed to express the emotions of joy, sorrow, anger, and fear in that specific order. Although it was shot in just one minute, by stretching the length of the film to 82 minutes, the artist creates what upon first glance looks like three still photographic portraits. But for those who stayed a little longer, stared a little harder, or even came back a little later, they were startled to find that the three faces changed, ever so slowly and subtly. What made the work even more haunting is that the longer we watched, the more we sensed ourselves gradually changing as well.

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK

Best Missed Gallery

One of the few local galleries to specialize exclusively in contemporary fine art photography, Lake Austin Fine Arts will leave a large hole in Austin's gallery community. Although usually showcasing the work of internationally recognized photographers such as William Christenberry, Bruce Davidson, Michael Kenna, Neil Leifer, and Julius Shulman, Lake Austin Fine Arts ended on a bang with their first exhibition of Texas photographers. Including photographs by Houston's Kimberly Gremillion, San Antonio's Rick Hunter, and Denton's Michael Madsen, we hate to even speculate what would have been next.

Best Neighboring Art Society

With 800 active members from 30 states and four countries and better networking opportunities than a sorority, the TPS offers workshops, contests, exhibitions, grants, newsletters, and an annual print exchange. The society also has a terrific Web site for members and nonmembers alike, packed full with information about upcoming shows and other local photographic events.

Texas Photographic Society
6338 N. New Braunfels
San Antonion

Best New Gallery

Wow... this place has some amazing photographs!!!

Best New Theater Space

Blue Theatre
916 Springdale

Best Ongoing Meeting of the Minds

Jeremy Ellis, BookPeople's masterminded marketing man, is forever scheduling weird, exciting, eclectic, and sometimes downright wacko events on the third floor. Whether it's your "standard" book signing, Use Your Words (the live "talk show" hosted by Spike Gillespie), weekly meetings on intimacy, or some NC-17 affair, there is always some something worth investigating.

603 N. Lamar

Best Theater Group Name

“Like most actors, we all had a background in Shakespeare,” says Sarah Richardson, one of five artistic directors in Rude Mechanicals. “And it was way back in the dark ages in 1995 when we thought we would end up being a Shakespearean troupe.” Their company’s name is plucked from a quote by Puck in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, who talks of people who labor by day and act by night. When the actors in Rude Mechanicals began at the Off-Center (a theater they now run) they were exactly that. Now the collective company does exclusively new work, performing hit shows like the off-Broadway produced Lipstick Traces, which sold out every time on a nation-wide tour this past season.

The Off Center
2211-A Hidalgo

Best Visit From Austin Past

MacArthur fellow Dave Hickey, currently of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, may be the most important Man of Aesthetic Letters in our era, and he landed in Nevada up from Fort Worth and his legendary Sixties Austin gallery, A Clean Well-Lighted Place. His essays on contemporary art send global sparks, and his lecture here last year on "The Beaux Arts Tradition" was a fugue of knowledge, wit, acute distinctions, sharply rendered Austin memories, and a generous joyfulness in really, really seeing. Those who heard him had new eyes and ears; those who didn't are waiting for the next whirlwind. Dave Hickey: 702-610-6207

Dave Hickey
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas

Best Friend of the Public Library

If you're browsing at the central library on Guadalupe on any given Tuesday or Saturday morning, listen closely in the quiet. Put your ear to the floor. You might hear the Friends of the Public Library whirring away like well-oiled industrial equipment down in the basement. Chances are you won't, and that's the reason this group of heroes goes unsung. They're sorting books down there, feverishly, in preparation for the September book sale, which provides APL with an annual $50,000 (at least) boost to its budget. Programs, staff, computer/furniture acquisitions, you name it. The Friends make development easier, especially in these rough financial times. Because they also get involved -- at City Council meetings, in letter-writing campaigns, etc. -- they're always recruiting volunteers. E-mail Kim Lindros at [email protected] to help out.

Friends of the Austin Public Library
800 Guadalupe

Best Reason to Get out of the Shower

Closet crooners and shower sopranos delight! You can finally come out of the shower! Tapestry Singers sings music about, by, and for women every Monday night, 7-9pm. One of the healthiest vices in Austin, Tapestry requires no auditions nor musical training. Just show up and open your mouth -- but make sure you towel off first.

Tapestry Singers

Best Arts Crusader

It all began at the tender age of 11, when Rachel Koper realized she had a knack for drawing horses. Now the practicing artist and director at Gallery Lombardi, Koper is a ruthless yet selfless promoter of local art in Austin. At virtually every opening, talk, and performance, she's there creating opportunities for those around her. Her exhibition "Electricity and Me" is one of many great examples. This remarkable cross-media event featured more than 60 local artists whose work ranged from interactive installations of electro-shock therapy to amalgamations of kitsch hybrids and do-it-yourself robots.

Gallery Lombardi
910 W. Third, 512/481-1088
602 W. Seventh Ste. A, 512/481-1088

Bret Brookshire

Best Shaper of New Worlds

Seeing a new play at the Vortex isn't like seeing one anywhere else in town. You don't just hear the dramatist's words given voice, you're taken to the places they're spoken. That's because Vortex Artistic Director Bonnie Cullum takes pains to realize a new script's setting. Collaborating with exceptional designers -- e.g., Jason Amato on lights, Kari Perkins on costumes, and Ann-Marie Gordon on sets -- Cullum will transform her entire theatre into an environment that lets us breathe the air the characters breathe, which, of course, helps us feel what these characters feel. From the deck of a 19th-century whaler, as in Kirk Smith's adaptation of Moby Dick, to the organic-mechanic cyber-landscapes of ethos, Cullum fashions brave new dramatic worlds that are thrilling to visit.

Vortex Repertory Co.

Best Sidebar

Four years after its inception as a sidebar program of Cinematexas, the annual Eye + Ear performing arts series has evolved into an important international event in its own right. Sonic Youth's Jim O'Rourke and Thurston Moore, Japanoise artist Merzbow, DJ Lithops from "intelligent dance music" ensemble Mouse on Mars: The list of past performers reads like a who's who in the audio-visual avant-garde. Armed with a grant from the NEA, Eye + Ear organizers have stayed true to their high level of programming for 2002. Notably, they've commissioned new music composer (and Lacanian psychoanalyst) Gerard Pape to write a new piece to be performed by London's Arditti Quartet. The ensemble is perhaps best known for their performance of "Helicopter String Quartet," for which the musicians played their parts from separate helicopters, reaching their audience via audio and video projection. So if you're going to Eye + Ear, be ready for anything.

Best Feminist Synchronized Swimming Troupe

Eat your heart out, America. Austin is home to the nation's one and only feminist synchronized swimming team, and we're darn proud of it. The swimmers, who go by the name of the H2Hos, have three central concerns: 1) homemade swimwear and accessories; 2) fabulousness; and 3) creating a space for inclusive discourse about gender roles and modes of femininity, next to a pool. The Hos held a performance in June at Elks Lodge #201, where poolside gawkers were treated to a finely tuned routine set to a live band of androgynous white-robed Scandinavians. Equal parts Marlene Dietrich, The Little Mermaid, and Busby Berkeley, with as many costume changes as a Cher concert in Vegas -- these hos know how to put on a show.


Best Dazzler

Some stage designers may treat light like a technical tool, but Jason Amato conducts light -- not in the electrical sense but the orchestral sense. Shafts of light swell and fade at his bidding, like brass instruments in a symphony; colors saturate a stage the way strings come to the fore in a musical passage. The way he works with light is wholly artistic, and it's made his work at the Vortex, the Zachary Scott Theatre Center, and elsewhere dazzling in every sense: so physically intense as to be blinding, but also (and chiefly) jaw-droppingly impressive, for its beauty, its vividness, and the way it illuminates what's happening onstage, the patterns and hues corresponding to a scene's mood and emotion. This is a man who truly sheds light on a play. 419-7419 [email protected]

419-7419, [email protected]

Bret Brookshire

Best Reason for Artists to Stay in Austin

Why should artists stay in Austin, or, more importantly, make Austin their home? The Austin Museum of Art's "22 to Watch" -- the brainchild of Dana Friis-Hansen and co-curators Gail B. Sanders and Erica M. Shamaly -- offered some good incentive. It was the first AMOA exhibition to focus on local talent in over a decade. The work, culled from artists living within a 50-mile radius of Austin, testified to the range of personalities who are trying to make the local art scene here a more thriving place to live and work. Of course Austin still has a long way to go in securing itself a permanent position on the contemporary art map, but if this exhibition is any indication of what's to come, then maybe it's time to start unpacking.

Austin Museum of Art – Downtown
823 Congress

Most Compelling Proof Yet That Austin Really Is the Third Coast

At first it was just wanton boasting. So a couple of movies had come out of Austin. Big deal. Then there was a film society, a few film festivals -- make that a half-dozen and counting. Maybe the River City really does know something about movies. But what finally clinched the deal was Austin Studios -- our very own production facility, a joint custody case borne from the city of Austin and the Austin Film Society. With seven features under its belt and 20 acres to roam on, Austin Studios has bypassed the baby-steps phase and can now sound out with pleasure: The Third Coast has landed.

Austin Studios
1901 E. 51st

Best Poetry Open Mic

Think all poetry is stuffy and elitist? Then prepare to be delightfully disillusioned at the Church of Character, aka the Austin Poetry Slam. Here you'll find some of Austin's most emotionally brilliant, intellectually beautiful poets, as well as the city's most animated (and opinionated) literary audience. Poems are judged for content – ranging from individually stylized political rants to soulful songs to an homage to the air guitar, with everything in-between, outside, and as yet to be located. Judges also evaluate each poet's performance, which we won't even try to describe here. Disillusionment was never more fun. Wednesdays, sign-up at 7:30.

510 S. Congress

Best Acting Coach for the Stage Shy

If you would have gotten in touch with your Inner Thespian long ago but for that naysaying Internal Critic of yours, sign-up for one of Babs' beginning acting classes. In a supportive, nonintimidating setting, the director of the State Theater School of Acting and one of this town's primo actors will show you how, utilizing the intuitive acting technique, you can liberate the talent that's hibernating on the right side of your brain. And damn the torpedoes.

Babs George
State Theatre School of Acting
719 Congress

Best Two-Way Exhibition

Is Aztlan an imaginary place or actual geographic landmark? The verdict is still out, but, at least for a short period of time, it provided a wonderful link between two of Austin's finest art institutions. With the pre-conquest works on view at the Austin Museum of Art and the contemporary ones housed at TFAA's Jones Center for Contemporary Arts, this sharing of the wealth, so to speak, not only promoted exercise along Congress but also offered a rare opportunity for the Austin art scene to come together to promote over 250 of the world's finest art and rare archeological artifacts created during an amazing 2,000-year period.

The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center
700 Congress

Austin Museum of Art – Downtown
823 Congress

Best Choreographer of the Air

For nearly two decades, artist Sally Jacques has won our admiration for breaking new ground, with both her site-specific dances in empty swimming pools and gravel pits and her politically engaged works from The 64 Beds Project to the annual Body Count on Day Without Art. Now, we're also admiring her for breaking new air. The past few years, Jacques' productions have featured performers gracefully dancing in the sky. With ropes, scaffolds, and a corps of courageous, committed, and gifted dancers, Jacques has created epic aerial ballets, charged with the singular beauty of bodies defying gravity and arcing through space, as well as the risk of hanging suspended above a concrete floor. With these dances, the incomparable Jacques has given us the gift of flight.

Sally Jacques
Jacques Productions
PO Box 3614

Best Artist Community in the Environs

If Austin is to become a place where curators and critics come to find new artists, it is imperative that Austin become a viable place for artists to thrive, not merely survive. Margo Sawyer's 1/4 Hora Project Space, a refurbished 19th-century opera-house-turned-studio and alternative art space, is one step in the right direction. An associate professor of sculpture at UT since 1988 and dedicated artist in her own right, Sawyer has created the beginnings of a vibrant artist community just 30 miles away from downtown. With committed artists such as Sydney Yeager, Teresa Hubbard, and Alexander Birchler already working there, we hope that this space receives the kind of support and sustained commitment it needs to prosper and grow.

1/4 Hora Project Space
104 S. Ave. C

Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle