Arts & Culture
2002 Readers Poll
2002 Critics Picks
Best Art Gallery

Rest assured that you will not sprout ovaries, suffocate on estrogen, or suffer any other unfortunate side effects if you happen to set foot in this popular nonprofit gallery. However, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the varied talent that you will find, in which case swooning is guaranteed. Sponsoring events that include film, music, literature, and dance, Women & Their Work has promoted artists (who happen to be female) for the past 24 years.

Women & Their Work
1311 E. Cesar Chavez

Best Museum

If you missed the elephant prancing about Congress, celebrating AMOA's circus-themed exhibit this past summer, you can expect further innovation to excite the senses in a perhaps less pachyderm-smelling way. AMOA continues to educate and entertain with modern and contemporary art at its current locations and now pushes forward with fundraising for the construction of a world-class facility for Fourth & Guadalupe.

Austin Museum of Art – Downtown
823 Congress

Best Classical Musician

With the more classical classical purveyed by conductor Bay and his Austin Symphony Orchestra, and the classical tangents and innovations of Reynolds' Golden Arm Trio (next scoring an entire modern opera about a witch, for Pete's sake …), it's no wonder these fierce talents are fit to be tied.

Peter Bay
Austin Symphony Orchestra
1101 Red River

Graham Reynolds

Best Painter/Sculptor

Though he's made his own bands' fliers over the years, Ethan Azarian's style emerges from an otherwise informal art background. His resulting playful acrylic paintings combine unexpected objects in dynamic relationships, like his free-floating fruit in heavy interiors and vacant-eyed cattle among weightless houses or paintings in his In House Gallery, like Herds of Chairs, which hangs next to Nests of Sharks, which hangs next to Chairs and Sharks. Julie Speed, on the other hand, focuses on hypnotically engaging and sometimes unnerving portraits in watercolor etching. She, too, is the successful product of a self-motivated course into art: coincidence? Only Austin knows ...

Ethan Azarian

Julie Speed

Bret Brookshire

Best Author/Poet

The 1986 release of Texas native Kinky Friedman's first crime detective novel, Greenwich Killing Time, marked the start of a literary career that now totals 18 books. Not only is he Austin's favorite author, but he is apparently something upon which ex-prez Bill Clinton and current chief Bush Jr. agree. Both just love Friedman's main character, the cowboy-hat-wearin', cigar-chompin' cat named ? Kinky, whose adventures have been translated into 16 languages (including Japanese, whose readers, as per custom, read the novels back to front -- a hell of a way to read a mystery, in our opinion). Look for a book tour this fall for his brand new novel, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch.

Kinky Friedman
John Jordan, 5010 Burleson Rd.

Best Comedy Club

Esther's Pool is that snazzy building adorned by Doug Jaques' exquisite "underwater" murals at the corner of Sixth & Red River. The main attraction here, of course, is the legendary Esther's Follies. While taking in a night of ribaldry at Austin's fave club of yucks, here are some important things to remember: 1) Get there early – seats fill up fast at this wacky club. Plus, the pre-show entertainment is not to be missed. 2) The front section is only for the bravest of heart willing to be a part of the show. 3) Go to the bathroom beforehand. Laughter of this magnitude can cause bladder mishaps. After all, they wouldn't swim in your toilet …

Esther's Follies
525 E. Sixth

Esther's Follies (top), Mr. Sinus Theater   Bret Brookshire

Best Comic/Improv Group

Austin loves her spoofsters. Esther's Follies, with its ripped-from-the-headlines take on Texas life and politics keeps the crowds comin' after 25 years. Relative newcomers, Mr. Sinus Theater, a local live spoof of the spoof Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show, takes cult films and recent releases alike and skewers them from the comfy vantage point of their seats in the front row of the Alamo Drafthouse.

Esther's Follies
525 E. Sixth

Best Dancer (Fine Arts)

A choreographic visionary so committed to her art that every cell of her body vibrates with dance. Given her international renown, so recently celebrated in the reunion tour of Judson School choreographers in which she danced a duet with Mikhail Baryshnikov, and this year's acknowledgment of her long local career by the Austin Critics Table with her induction into the first class of Austin Arts Hall of Fame, it seems only natural that readers should select this gracious, playful movement artist as their 2002 fave.

Deborah Hay
1703 Alta Vista

Bret Brookshire

Best Dance Company

While Ballet Austin offers some great classics -- the year will mark the 40th anniversary of the company's presentation of The Nutcracker – it's also en pointe with the daringly creative. Look forward to next season's full-length, non-narrative work in the debut of Touch, a live music and multimedia extravaganza.

Best Theatre Space

Nowhere else in Austin compares to our precious Paramount. Whether it's a Rosalind Russell redux, a Mel Brooks melee, or live musicals from Austin's finest – not to mention the double cocktail you can order at the bar to sip during your viewing and listening orgy – the theatre experience offered to audiences here in this lovingly restored opera house is unparalleled.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

photo by John Anderson

Best Theatre Director

It takes some heavy gray matter and not a little blood, toil, tears, and sweat to wrangle Kirk Lynn's complex scripts onto an audience-thrilling stage with the Rude Mechanicals, and this director's got all of that in spades. Actors, dancers, musicians, set designers, light techs – she brings them together under one Off Center roof, and the pyrotechnics fly.

Best Theatre Actor/Actress

The raw talent, the polished craft, the undeniable stage presence, the occurrence of all three and more in two Austin actresses? Yes, when you're talking about the Rude Mechs' Lesley or Ms. Instant Waterworks St. Denis lighting up stages all across the city.

Lana Lesley
Rude Mechanicals
2211-A Hidalgo

Caroline St. Denis
Acclaim Talent
4100 Menchaca

Lana Lesley (top), Caroline St. Denis   Bret Brookshire

Best Theatre Company

“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, regarding people who labor by day and act by night. When Rude Mechanicals began at the Off Center (a space they now run), the actors were exactly that. Now the collective performs exclusively new work, like their original off-Broadway hit adaptation of Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces, here and on the road, across the U.S.

The Off Center
2211-A Hidalgo

Best Annual Fundraiser

It's hard to find an excuse not to patronize one of the more than 300 vendors who set up shop at the Junior League's annual fundraiser. The event supports a group that looks out for practically every demographic through their work with local charities like SafePlace and the Humane Society, and Junior League's own projects, like Coats for Kids and the Town Lake Park Project.

Junior League
5416 Parkcrest #100

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