Arts & Culture
2009 Readers Poll
2009 Critics Picks

John Anderson

All-Time Winner

The Paramount is the grande dame of Austin theatres, the crown jewel of Austin’s Downtown arts panoply. For nearly 100 years, the palatial theatre has stood in the heart of Austin’s Downtown. Renovations in recent decades have kicked the dust from its jambs and put a shine on its patina (though some resilient ghosts may continue to lurk in the rafters). Originally opened in 1915 as the Majestic Theatre, the stage hosted traveling vaudeville acts and silent movies before changing over to a first-run movie theatre in the 1930s and changing the name to the Paramount Theatre. Renowned in the 21st century as Austin’s foremost cultural purveyor, the Paramount presents a year-round program that caters to an immense variety of artistic experience. Live theatre performances and one-person shows; music acts, dance companies, and comedy troupes; national touring shows and homegrown productions; red-carpet premieres of new films, an annual summer schedule of movie revivals, and gala film-festival events – all find berths on the Paramount’s graceful stage. And have we mentioned that the Paramount Theatre includes beer, wine, and liquor at its concession stands and that the volunteer ushers are among the most dedicated and helpful aisle assistants in the business? Here’s to another 100 years of Paramount glory.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

Best Actor/Actress

Of course the winner of Austin's regional Air Guitar Championship and the Alamo Drafthouse's Air Sex World Championship can convincingly go through the motions of whatever you've got. But, as we've seen with Simone's work with the ColdTowne improv troupe, when he's performing with his dog (Robin Goodfellow) as "Buddy Daddy," and when his self-authored Dear Frailty series of twitchy monologues galvanizes a stage, the man's got big acting talent even when words are in the mix.

ColdTowne Theater

Todd V. Wolfson

Sandy Carson

Best Art Gallery

Okay Mountain is one of Austin's most ambitious and experimental art galleries. Founded in 2006 by a group of artists, the gallery has since been on the cutting edge of local and national art scenes. In addition to exhibiting the likes of genderqueer video artist Ryan Trecartin (and very recently our own former art director Taylor Holland, among many others), the artists who run Okay Mountain often exhibit elsewhere as a collective – spreading the gospel of Austin contemporary art far and wide.

Okay Mountain
1312-B E. Cesar Chavez

Best Clothing Designer

Chia Guillory's constant innovation and instinct for what's next must be why she's taken this category four years running (if you missed her arm warmers last year, they should be at the top of your fall wish list). Though demand for this Austin Craft Mafia capo's ubiquitous Chia hat is undiminished, these days Guillory's appeal goes way beyond furry ears.


Best Comedian/Comedy Troupe

Bald-headed Latin scholar John Erler and Joe "the Teacher" Parsons and their Pancake friends are so clever and merciless in their live parodying of big-screen classics and clunkers, so relentless in their popular comedy onslaughts at the Alamo Drafthouse, that Erler doesn't even have to strip down to his tighty-whities to get the big laughs. But, no, that doesn't stop him for a minute.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070
Alamo Drafthouse Mueller, 1911 Aldrich #120, 512/572-1425

Best Composer

Whether he's leading the legendary Golden Arm Trio into the Alamo Drafthouse to score yet another silent film classic or working alongside Golden Hornet Project co-founder Peter Stopschinski to create an utterly unique musical experience that practically screams (albeit melodically) Austin, Reynolds is the very definition of a polymorphous and perverse purveyor of musical magic. Quiet: Genius at work!

Best Dance Company

Stephen Mills: Those two words say more about ballet in Austin than a thousand performances could. And if you know what those two words – Stephen Mills – can do, you'll forget all about that fusty old ballet schlock you grew up on. The dancers themselves have a synergy with their choreographer palpable from the stage. Mills has made ballet sexy again, and Ballet Austin takes it all in stride.

Ballet Austin
501 W. Third

Best Emergent Local Filmmaker

He's directed videos for metal gods the Sword, served as cinematographer on Kyle Henry's remarkably disturbing Room, and co-directed the one-of-a-kind documentary Trinidad (go ahead, name another independent doc that travels to Colorado and unearths the sex-reassignment capital of the world, we dare you). As if that weren't enough, Raval also did cinematography (with Kimberley Roberts) for the Academy Award-nominated New Orleans doc Trouble the Water, which, while it didn't nail the Oscar, did pick up the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2008. Top that!


Todd V. Wolfson

photo by John Anderson

Best Museum

The Blanton is known as much for its ambitious program schedule, including the monthly art party B Scene, as it is for the world-class art collection adorning the walls. With curators taking risks in the museum's project space – Lisi Raskin and Jim Drain are two recent exhilarating examples – and university scholars' carefully studied surveys of neglected moments in art history (the Park Place Gallery), the Blanton is much more than a repository for past masters. It's a place where are is active, connecting wtih viewers in teh present and moving toward the future.

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK

Best Performance Space

Celebrating the Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin, and Austin Lyric Opera as resident companies, the Long Center has been an acoustic and visual treasure since its debut a mere year and a half ago. With the balcony view of Downtown's reflection on Town Lake vying with every seat in both theatres as best-in-house, the roster of both local and internationally acclaimed can’t-miss nights keeps growing.

Long Center for the Performing Arts
701 W. Riverside

Best Place to See Local Art

Now in its seventh year, EAST is the best way to experience Austin's growing contemporary visual art scene. The intimate format – you pace your travels to the array of artist studios – denies the possibility of a cool and distant art experience. Instead, the art is often visceral and immediate. Did we mention it's entirely free?! Austin may not have schmancy museums built on old Texas oil money, but we have a handful of innovative galleries and hundreds of fiercely independent artists who call this place home, which is why an event like EAST should be compulsory for every naysayer of Austin's art scene.

East Austin Studio Tour
916 Springdale Bldg. 2 #101

Best Theatre Director

The Mistress of the Vortex has staged so many original phantasmagorias over the years – Dark Goddess! The X&Y Trilogy! Vampyress! – and provided theatregoers with diverse visions of myth and magic like some Neil Gaiman tarantula-venom fever dream. Now, following this year's spring production of her ambitious and watery Oceana, the intrepid director is set to unveil The Dragonfly Queen, the newest multimedia musical spectacle from partner-in-theatre, ethos.

Bonnie Cullum
The Vortex
2307 Manor Rd.

Jana Birchum

Best Visual Artist

This award is bittersweet for us because Pangallo has recently moved to New York City. (New York City?!) Such is the way of big fish in small ponds. She swears she'll be back, though, and here's hoping. The appeal of Pangallo's aesthetic is wide. Her visual art encompasses live, video, and photographic performances, gaining her fans from within and without the art world. Pangallo's personae are as hilarious as they are tragic, and there's the rub; when she lets multiple characters out to play, as she did in this year's Let Me Entertain You, the effect is dizzying. Jill, stay in touch and send us a postcard every now and again.

Readers: Architecture & Lodging
Readers: Entertainment

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