Arts & Culture
2011 Readers Poll
2011 Critics Picks

Bret Brookshire

Best Actor/Actress

Well, sure, she's got the high profile now – playing beloved journalist Molly Ivins in Zach's popular Red Hot Patriot – but Barbara Chisholm (wife of Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires) has been a much-admired acting force of nature on stages all over this town for years, whether solo or as part of a fine ensemble, even when not brightening the boards for her own Red Then Productions. This second Babs "BOA" proves it: Our readers adore her almost as much as we do.

Best Art Gallery

There’s no denying that Arthouse is pushing boundaries for art and artists alike. It takes but one trek through the recent renovation to know that future-forward design aesthetic is crafted into every detail of the gallery – from the exterior lighting and the dapple of brilliant blue peekaboo glass boxes to the rooftop lounge that feels like the inside of a midcentury Scandinavian davenport. And then there's the art itself: On every visit, patrons are welcomed to new and bold sweeps of artistic insights curated by the inspired eye of its Curator of Public Programs, Rachel Adams.

The Contemporary Austin
700 Congress

Best Clothing Designer

Paris-trained Gail Chovan knows her history of fashion, and she understands the rules so completely that she breaks them magnificently. Her clothes have a startling contrast of extravagance against utter Belgian simplicity. She is a rare breed: a dark angel swathed in distressed Victorian and 1920s couture treasures combined with Yojhi Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester … all in black, of course, which is how her iconic, multiple "Best of Austin"-award-winning store got the name Blackmail. Having dispensed with merchandise from other vendors, Blackmail has transformed itself into Chovan's personal showroom featuring only her designs, and she is the queen of all she surveys.

1202 S. Congress

Best Comedian or Comedy Troupe

John Erler and Joe Parsons may mock the movie Highlander, but they are themselves locked in an age-old battle – against Hollywood's most craptacular wastes of celluloid – and, with wits edged like the keenest blades, they decapitate, eviscerate, and emasculate these cinematic turkeys. Their weekly displays of bad-movie lampoonery at the Alamo Drafthouse – with live heckling, sketches, and drinking games – are also, like the movie's warriors, the stuff of legend. True, Master Pancake is, unlike those squabbling swordsmen, imaginative, sharp, and intentionally hilarious, but that's all the more reason to hope that Erler and Parsons are immortal, too. There can be only one … Master Pancake!

Master Pancake

Bret Brookshire

Best Composer

We're sorry, which Graham Reynolds were you asking about? The one who headlined the Golden Arm Trio and wrote new scores for silent film classics at the Alamo Drafthouse? Or the one who scores contemporary films such as Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Bernie? The one who worked with Ballet Austin on The Bach Project and The Mozart Project and with Forklift Danceworks on The Trash Project? The symphony-writing co-mastermind of the Golden Hornet Project with Peter Stopschinski? The bandleader who did the kickass remixes of Duke Ellington tunes? Or the composer-in-residence for the Rude Mechs and the Dionysium? What? They're all the same guy? Then the question of why Austin holds this prolific and prodigiously talented musical artist so close to its heart (and ear) is already answered.

Best Dancer or Dance Company

Boldly mixing a contemporary vision with a deep respect for tradition, Ballet Austin continues to captivate Austin audiences. Artistic Director Stephen Mills is known for his innovative ballets and collaborations, including the recent Mozart Project, an ambitious reimagination by DJ Spooky, pianist Michelle Schumann, and composer Graham Reynolds. And for our future prima ballerinas, the Ballet Austin Academy is one of the largest ballet schools in the U.S.

Best Emergent Local Filmmaker

You love him. You really love him. This three-time winner's profile has risen to new heights since last year’s "Best Of,“ thanks to his having been chosen as one of Out magazine's Out 100, the buzz created by advance screenings of the upcoming Fourplay, and his "Rantings" contribution to Slacker 2011. Raval is quickly outgrowing our "emergent" category, and he'd pretty much have to work with Spielberg to become any more of a big deal.


Best Museum

Any time you need a quick trip around the world – say, just for a day – the University of Texas' art museum is there for you. The Blanton's ample collections (totaling more than 17,000 works) allow visitors to jet off to Latin America and Europe, as well as across the U.S., daily, and special exhibits, such as the current "El Anatsui: When Last I Wrote to You About Africa," offer additional ports of call. Unlike other vacays, you aren't limited to this century. Here, you can jump back to the time of Mad Men, cowboys, or old masters. Just set your watch to get back to the future for the museum's monthly party, B Scene! Bon voyage!

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK

photo by John Anderson

Best Performance Space

Musicals (Young Frankenstein), menfolk in tutus (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo), Carol Burnett and Quentin Tarantino (now that's a mash-up we'd love to see!), plus the inimitable Intergalactic Nemesis series? It's just too much to comprehend that all have a place in that white-ringed green box. They've been blowing up our cellular for days, and once our paycheck comes in, we're going for the season, baby.

Long Center for the Performing Arts
701 W. Riverside

Best Place To See Local Art

Aptly named, this behind-the-scenes studio tour takes you through the sometimes hidden but always intriguing Eastside studios and galleries of Austin’s burgeoning art scene. Crowds on a sea of bikes and feet follow the EAST map to discovery on every corner. From modest to refined, each artist's studio is a telling context in which to view work often not available for purchase in any gallery. The yearly catalogs have practically become coffee table institutions in and of themselves. So grab a beer with an art friend, sip that Chardonnay like it's Welch's, and break out your checkbook (do we even use those anymore?) to feed an artist.

East Austin Studio Tour
916 Springdale Bldg. 2 #101

Best Theatre Director

Dave Steakley must have his own Steakley Hall of Fame to house all the awards, commendations, and accolades he receives. His deft handling of so many kinds of theatre makes him one of the finest directors in Texas, but it's his bold approach to musicals that has delighted ZACH audiences for tow decades. His 2011 version of Hairspray was an over-the-top, riotous, and thoroughly successful production that enjoyed a very extended run. In addition, Steakley's August: Osage County and Metamorphoses left indelible impressions on hundreds of theatregoers … and hence, yet another "Best of Austin" for this true Austin treasure.

Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar

Best Visual Artist

Whether it's Jones with his relentless graphite-and-ink renderings of the animal-riddled wilderness displayed in his Monofonus Press book Everglades and his one-man "Animal Again" show at Champion Gallery or Doyle with his Nakatomi Inc powerhouse releasing his own comics-influenced posters of pop-culture beauty to the world, our readers know what they like, and they like it graphic.

Jules Buck Jones

Tim Doyle

Readers: Architecture & Lodging
Readers: Entertainment

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