Arts & Culture
2005 Readers Poll
2005 Critics Picks

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Art Icon

That Randy J. Turner, better known as Biscuit, died before he could see himself on the Chronicle cover was a shock to his many friends and fans. His untimely death from Hepatitis C left the music and art community reeling from the loss. As lead singer for the Big Boys, Biscuit melded funk with punk and played godfather to hardcore punk bands for three decades. As an artist, his quirky sense of design and color was distinctive and unforgettable. As a friend, well, there was no better.

Best Classical Music Education for the Masses

One of the most striking things about the Armstong Community Music School, located in the modernly elegant Austin Lyric Opera building on Barton Springs Road, is the diversity of its students. The school provides individual and group classes in voice, and a multitude of instruments and music appreciation for infants, adults, and everyone in between. The goal of the school is to make classical music accessible to everyone, to make it interesting to those who might not have a Ph.D. There's tuition assistance for those who can’t afford it, and many teachers even volunteer their time for free.

Armstrong Community Music School
404 Camp Craft
512/474-2331
www.austinlyricopera.org/education/acms.asp

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Dance Diva

With her fourth CD, Trois, in release, Hedda Layne is captivating Austin with her spellbinding vocal performances of classic standards and irresistible originals. The New World Diva casts her magic spells with pop-torch and dance collaborations masterminded with her composer/arranger/guitarist husband, Troy Lee Warden ... and what gorgeous spells they are. She has been compared to many of the finest singers of the past 50 years, but make no mistake – Hedda Layne is purely original, completely fresh, and totally Austin.

Best Destination for Literary Groupies

Ah, the library. The idyllic seclusion of the stacks, the careworn edges of oft-thumbed volumes, more periodicals than the mind can grasp – is there any place better for a bibliophile? How about UT’s Harry Ransom Center, which boasts one of the most impressive rare-book collections not only in Texas, but in the country. Perhaps more exciting, however, is its extensive collection of original manuscripts and personal correspondence. Highlights include a valentine from e.e. cummings to Marion Morehouse, drafts of Timothy Leary's The Politics of Ecstasy, Allen Ginsberg's letters, and a relatively new addition, Don Delillo's (almost) complete manuscripts. We think it’s a great date destination for wooing that special bookworm in your life.

Harry Ransom Center
300 W. 21st
512/471-8944
www.hrc.utexas.edu

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Excuse to Dress Up

There's an old commercial for the opera promoting it as something so inclusive that it can be experienced even in jeans and cowboy boots. Sure, it’s great to not care about what you have to wear in this home of "Austin Casual," but isn't it fun to dress up for something special? Since formal gowns and tuxes will draw unwanted stares pretty much everywhere else in Austin, the best excuse to dress up is for a performance at Bass Concert Hall. So pull out that old prom dress or dust off that old cumberbund and catch a symphony, ballet, opera, or Broadway show.

Bass Concert Hall
2350 Robert Dedman
512/471-2787
www.texasperformingarts.org

Best Excuse to Get Your Draw On

Every Sunday between 2 and 6pm, this laid-back congregation of art students, cartoonists, animators, and graphic design professionals convenes in the homey confines of the Hideout on Congress Avenue, there to spend a few beverage-fueled hours rendering everything imaginable in oversized sketchbooks. It's a friendly, wisecracking atmosphere – especially after a few beers or too much coffee, man – and everyone's welcome, regardless of their ink-slinging abilities. Bring you a pen and some paper, you wannabe Chris Ware or Julie Doucet, and join the fun.

Austin Sketch Group
512/689-9644
www.austinsketchgroup.com

Best Outdoor Fundraiser

One of the most elegant parties on the party circuit, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden presents its annual Garden Party, harking back to a more gracious era. The trees and shrubs sparkle with light, as guests stroll along the paths of the garden, through the woods, over bridges and babbling brooks, and may bid on flower pots decorated by many prominent artists and citizens, while nibbling on culinary delights from dozens of Austin's best restaurants and sipping fine wines with the sounds of the Nash Hernandez orchestra as background. Ahhh, to live in this garden forever!

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum
605 Azie Morton
512/445-5582
www.umlaufsculpture.org

Best Return to Form

Used to be a lot of comedy improvisation in this town, back in the day. And now, after a long sad lull, there's even more – thanks in great part to the Hideout's relentlessly gung-ho Andy Crouch and the Out of Bounds Festival's Shannon McCormick and Mike D'Alonzo. There's currently more improv – short form, long form, weird-ass experimental – than you can shake Del Close's stick at. And there's more to come: a big scene building momentum with the likes of Heroes of Comedy, the Knuckleball Now, Girls Girls Girls, Start Trekkin', Tight, the Sicks, Get Up, Think Tank, and who knows how many expatriates moving back home from the Windy City. Yes, and –

The Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse
617 Congress
512/476-1313
www.hideouttheatre.com

Best Roving Museum

Just across from the Victory Grill and down a ways from the Longbranch Inn sits an unassuming office building. But hanging above the nondescript glass doors is a vinyl sign alerting those who enter to the importance of what lies within. Since 1985, the Texas Music Museum has been one of Austin's hidden secrets, and within those office walls, the museum temporarily exists, donning photos, recordings, stories, and memorabilia of a million blues, country, and Tejano artists branded by the Lone Star. From Red River Dave McEnery to youngster Gary Clark Jr., the Texas Music Museum is a celebration of Texas' contributions to the world musical canon. Keep your fingers crossed for a new, 100,000-square-foot facility in the near future. But for now, look for that white vinyl sign flapping in the wind.

Texas Music Museum
1009 E. 11th
512/472-8891
www.texasmusicmuseum.org

Best Visionary Composer

"Few musicians have the teeming ambition of Graham Reynolds," we wrote back in 2003 when the leader of the Golden Arm Trio won a Readers Poll award for Best Classical Musician. Since 1995, Reynolds has sewn a patchwork amalgam of classically structured, jazz-inflected, and punk-influenced soundtracks, symphonies, operas, and performing groups of nearly every size. While that places him on par with many Austin musicians with a renaissance streak, Reynolds stands tall, uniquely dedicated to the muse and defiantly original in execution. Bravo!

Graham Reynolds
www.grahamreynolds.com

Most Entertaining Nonprofit

Presenting local brilliance for almost 35 years, Zachary Scott Theatre is an integral part of Austin's entertainment scene. With their show-stopping mainstage productions as well as multiple programs for school-aged children, Zach is an equal-opportunity entertainment center, offering musicals, dramas, comedies, one-person shows, experimental productions, cabaret acts, and every other kind of entertaining stagecraft. A dazzling asset for Austin's citizens, Zach Scott continues to thrill, decade after decade.

Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar
512/476-0541
www.zachtheatre.org

Most Fun Fundraiser

Like the OK Corral for arts patrons, the Arthouse 5x7 event adds some serious excitement to art collecting. The walls are lined with hundreds of pieces of art – all 5 inches by 7 inches, all $100 each, each with a tag – as attendees scope out their favorite. But when the starter pistol goes off, the Arthouse erupts into hilarious pandemonium as patrons lunge for the tag of their desired piece(s). Who said giving wasn't fun?

The Contemporary Austin
700 Congress
512/453-5312
www.thecontemporaryaustin.org

Sexiest Nonprofit Fundraiser

Sex and art. Inseperable since time immemorial. And there's no better place to see them co-mingle than the annual ArtErotica Ball. Hosted in February by the Octopus Club, which raises and distributes money to various AIDS-related charities, ArtErotica mixes hundreds of pieces of erotic art with hundreds of erotic beauties of all persuasions. Toss in cocktails and an erotic dessert parade, and you'll agree that the ArtErotica Ball will make you the sexiest philanthropist around.

The Octopus Club
www.octopusclub.org

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

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