Arts & Entertainment
2017 Readers Poll
2017 Critics Picks

photo by John Anderson

Best Stairways to Heaven

There's much to treasure in the city's new Central Library, but the thing that gives us the most joy, that taps our childhood love of libraries, is the immense six-story atrium crisscrossed with bridges and staircases. The manner in which the Lake|Flato firm designed these walkways to cut through this vast expanse of space, awash in natural light from the roof skylights and east windows, gives new meaning to the term "flight of stairs." Added to the trippy magic of their look – like M.C. Escher studied architecture at Hogwarts – just the climb from floor to floor is an adventure, a quest for literary enchantment in a bibliophile's paradise.

Austin Public Library
Cepeda Branch Library, 651 N. Pleasant Valley, 512/974-7372
Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/974-3625
Willie Mae Kirk Branch Library, 3101 Oak Springs, 512/974-9920
Twin Oaks Branch Library, 1800 S. Fifth, 512/974-9980
University Hills Branch Library, 4721 Loyola, 512/974-9940
Windsor Park Branch Library, 5833 Westminster, 512/974-9840
Spicewood Springs Library, 8637 Spicewood Springs Rd., 512/974-3800
Little Walnut Creek Branch Library, 835 W. Rundberg, 512/974-9860
Menchaca Road Branch Library, 5500 Menchaca Rd., 512/974-8700
Pleasant Hill Branch Library, 211 E. William Cannon, 512/974-3940
Howson Branch Library, 2500 Exposition, 512/974-8800
Old Quarry Branch Library, 7051 Village Center Dr., 512/974-8860
Milwood Branch Library, 12500 Amherst, 512/974-9880
Yarborough Branch Library, 2200 Hancock, 512/974-8820
Hampton Branch Library, 5125 Convict Hill Rd., 512/974-9900
Ruiz Branch Library, 1600 Grove, 512/974-7400
North Village Branch Library, 2505 Steck, 512/974-9960
St. John Branch Library, 7500 Blessing, 512/974-7570
Central Library, 710 W. Cesar Chavez, 512/974-7400
Southeast Branch Library, 5803 Nuckols Crossing, 512/974-8840
Carver Branch Library, 1161 Angelina, 512/974-1010

Highest Concentration of Hilarious Women

The history of Austin comedy is flush with funny femmes – Shannon Sedwick, Margaret Wiley, Laura House, Girls Girls Girls, Lashonda Lester, to name a few – but it's still rare to see that side-splitting sisterhood celebrated. That's why we're grateful for BettyFest, the annual assemblage of improv troupes where all the humor is XX. This spiritual heiress to the dearly departed Ladies Are Funny Festival has become the best place to see how many funny women this city has and an inspiration to others to form female comedy groups, while raising funds for worthy causes – this year's fest netted $3,755 for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity.


Illustration by Arian Brumby

photo by Jana Birchum

Best Cult Compound

Members of the psychedelic rock outfit Sun Machine and visual artist Fez Moreno took over an abandoned house of worship last February and it quickly became one of Austin’s most intriguing underground venues. The Electric Church, where bands play drenched in liquid light show projections, stacks local and regional talent several nights a week as well as recurring open jams where musicians from all walks come together to improvise – all amounting to an important addition to the scene.

The Electric Church
5018 E. Cesar Chavez

Best Face in the Crowd

Somewhere on his hard drive Sandy Carson has a picture of you. The Scotland-raised, Austin-based photographer spent the last decade turning his lens toward the audience at concerts. His debut hardcover, We Were There, captures front-row fiends, mosh pit daredevils, screaming sing-alongers, transfixed fans, human scaffolding for crowd-surfers, and confused parents in moments loaded with beauty, humor, and emotion.

Sandy Carson

Ann Wolfe as Artemis in Wonder Woman   Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Most Amazon Prime

Look, it's not like we didn't already know Ann Wolfe is a badass. At the height of her boxing career, she held world titles in three different weight classes simultaneously; at her (sadly, now closed) gym she trained professional fighters like James Kirkland and regular schlubs alike; and she also mentored countless Austin youth. For her second (or maybe third, probably fourth) act, she became a bona fide movie badass this summer playing Artemis in Wonder Woman. We'll leave it to director Patty Jenkins to ask the rhetorical: "Who else should be one of the greatest warrior Amazons but the best female boxer in history." No question mark required.

Best High-dea

“I’d taken a break from the herb, and when I went back to it, I would get so high that I didn’t want to do anything else,” explained Sword axe-grinder Kyle Shutt this summer. “It was during one of those moments that somebody went, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great to do a heavy version of The Dark Side of the Moon?’ Just one of those silly stoner things.” Not so silly given the ATX all-stars’ four-star execution of Pink Floyd’s sci-fi symphony. Real genius: Brownout’s Alex Marrero as David Gilmour.

Photo by Sandy Carson

Best Classic Leading Man

Othello. Macbeth. Cyrano. Vershinin. Petruchio. Death of a Salesman's Willy Loman, Present Laughter's Garry Essendine. The Mountaintop's MLK. Many actors would kill to play one of these plum leading roles. Marc Pouhé has played them all – and killed in every one. The actor's commanding presence, emotional complexity, and voice that could tame thunder have made him the go-to guy for classical leads at Austin Shakespeare and St. Edward's University. He's likely played more such roles than anyone in Austin, with the results routinely netting him applause and awards. When Pouhé's onstage, as Linda Loman said of Willy, attention must be paid.

Best Place to Level Up Your Character

If you've ever dreamed of entering a medieval tavern straight out of Skyrim, then the Emerald Tavern is your next quest marker. Housing an extensive array of board games and slinging ale, caffeine, sandwiches, and baked goods, this safe haven from a cruel and unrelenting world has an extremely knowledgeable staff, an endearing atmosphere, and the best soundtrack to slay dragons or conquer empires (or maybe just get your train route in place).

Emerald Tavern Games & Cafe
9012 Research Ste. C-6

photo by John Anderson

Most Ubiquitous Brow

Mexic-Arte’s make-your-own felt eyebrow table urges visitors with a sign, “Don’t forget about Frida’s iconic unibrow!” But, how could they? Lately Frida Kahlo’s face and by extension her art have had a pervasive presence around Austin: at Mexic-Arte’s “Diego y Frida” exhibition, featuring the previously mentioned unibrow station, photographs of the couple, and more than a few attendants in Kahlo costumery; in homage at monthly “Frida Friday” markets offering art vendors, music, and an altar to their namesake; and on the posters and content of the Harry Ransom Center’s “Mexico Modern” show. Still to come: a Spanish-language opera about Kahlo and Rivera co-commissioned by UT Austin’s College of Fine Arts.

Mexic-Arte Museum
419 Congress

Harry Ransom Center
300 W. 21st

Frida Friday Market

Best Transylvania-Born Artistic Visionary

Born in Nagyvarad, Transylvania, in 1980, Austin-based artist Josef Kristofoletti might well be pardoned for a dreary disposition. Yet Kristofoletti is a vocal, engaged presence, willing to work heedlessly across multiple media and platforms. As the artist-in-residence at CERN, for instance, he designed the magnificent Higgs Boson mural, a process documented in The Atlas Detector. These days, Kristofoletti's work focuses on technology and public intervention, and he is in progress on a new 10-story mural on Second Street. To top it off, he also creates posters for films like Ivete Lucas' and Patrick Bresnan's "Roadside Attraction." Talk about distinctive.

photo by Sandy Carson

photo by John Anderson

Best Local Creative Couple With a Discerning Eye

We've been enamored of photographers/filmmakers/badass collaborators Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan for quite some time. But with their 2016 short doc "The Send-Off" followed by the brilliant (and globally award-winning) "The Rabbit Hunt," this duo is creating a body of work that is beautifully devastating in its documenting of rural lives with a careful and astute grace. If recent short "Roadside Attraction" is any indication, their upcoming feature debut Pahokee promises to be downright amazing. No pressure!

Ivete Lucas

Patrick Bresnan

Best "It's Not an Art House, It's an Art Home"

When AFS Cinema permanently took over the Marchesa Hall & Theatre space earlier this year, we knew it was going to be a struggle to schedule our lives around the influx of repertory films, special guests, new releases, and 4K restorations. But holy hell, guys! Some of us have jobs and family commitments, not to mention the maintaining of personal hygiene. To say that the programming team hit the ground running is an understatement. From series on Bob Fosse, Catherine Deneuve, and world animation to quirky and essential programs like Science on Screen and Richard Linklater's crowning Eighties appreciation, Jewels of the Wasteland, the beating heart of Austin's cinephilia is alive and well, and well-dressed, too, in this stylishly re-fabbed venue.

AFS Cinema
6406 N. I-35 #3100

photo by John Anderson

image via

Best Clay Wrangler

The "Doctor" of Texas Medicine Pottery in Buda has been mixing mud and mentoring students at the Laguna Gloria (now the Art School at the Contemporary) ceramic studio for nearly 15 years. He's been wielding his expertise at specialized firings – reduction, soda, raku, lustre – and just as importantly, sharing his gift for being the "best kind of teacher: supportive, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, open, and generous" to students with their own gifts and their own visions.

The Contemporary Austin Art School
3809 W. 35th

Best Comedic Argument Against Gentrification

The Latino Comedy Project, lying doggo since 2005's superhero-skewering Los Abengers show, recently returned to the live comedy stage with Gentrifucked, shining a much-needed brown comic light on what rampant development and clueless Anglo hipsterism have wrought in Austin's historically Hispanic neighborhoods. Cat cafes, mondo condominiums, relentless cultural bleaching and all its ramifications – all of it, darkly sliced to laugh-inducing ribbons on La Raza's edge as Adrian Villegas and his crew make their sketch-powered stand against the madness.

Poster Photography: Roger Puente

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Best Out-There Producer-Designer

When your résumé from the past year includes building a Satanic Panic escape room for Fantastic Fest, lighting a dance on Mansfield Dam for Fusebox Festival, and producing all 11 site-specific dances in Jennifer Sherburn's monthly 11:11 series, you clearly aren't content just doing the same-old same-old creative work. And so it is with indie producer-designer Natalie George. Her enthusiasm for making art in the wild and her boundless spirit of adventure have led her to take on projects outside the theatrical box and resulted in exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. When George is out there, head in that direction.

Best 1-2 Fuck You

Sure, Gerard Cosloy may best be known nationally for his work with Matador and Homestead Records, putting out seminal releases from Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Spoon. But in Austin you'll likely catch him at venues like Beerland scoping out local talent for his 12XU imprint (named after the Wire classic) like the Xetas, Golden Boys, and USA/Mexico – some of the finest acts currently gracing our stages.

3005 S. Lamar D109-403

photo by David Brendan Hall

Best Revolutionary Stance

When the Back Room closed in 2006 after more than three decades at 2015 E. Riverside, the live music capital lost its sole stopgap against headbangers defecting en masse to our neighboring Alamo City, world famous metal destination. Last year, at 2015 E. Riverside – Bldg. 4 – a onetime Latin disco that had hosted Beauty Ballroom, Antone’s, Midway Field House, and lastly Grizzly Hall took down the taxidermy and commissioned wall mounts of the Texas Revolutionary slogan. From Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo to the Dicks and Kali Uchis, Come & Take It Live mirrors its predecessor’s take-no-prisoners booking diversity.

Come and Take It Productions
2015 E. Riverside

Best More-Than-Just-Film Series

Don't let the name fool you: The Hyperreal Film Club, which hosted its inaugural screening series last summer, goes beyond any "film club" we know. For one thing, the founders – David McMichael, Jenni Kaye, and Tanner Hadfield – are interdisciplinary artists whose visionary programming runs the gamut of media. No form is unwelcome, nor guest uninvited, provided you're open to getting zonked on art. The club (email to join) celebrates experimental collage, electronic music, and queer zine culture at events around the city. At these screenings, the founders' infectious joy suffuses the room. You'd do well to attend.

Hyperreal Film Club

Courtesy of Melissa Cha

Best Creator of a New Language

Austin fantasy author Robert Stikmanz's mind is pure art. He was already a noted poet and illustrator when he began conceiving his Hidden Lands of Nod book series in the early Eighties. The world he created became an obsession that led to the creation of Dvarsh. The language and elegant writing system, which visually looks vaguely Arabic, has continued to expand word by word. His book The Way It Grows, co-written with his former assistant Amanda Kimmerly, gives a basic overview of the language, which he describes as comparable to Tolkien's Elvish, Avatar's Na'vi, or Star Trek's Klingon.

Best Friend of Austin Musicians

How do you get more than 200 music acts to perform for free? Tell them it benefits HAAM, therefore Austin musicians. The massive annual HAAM Benefit Day is more proof that our city values the arts. With the future of health care coverage ever in a political flux nationally, it's nice to know the nonprofit Health Alliance for Austin Musicians has been there since 2005 to assure working musicians the care they need and deserve. Reenie Harwood Collins, HAAM's executive director since 2013, leads the organization with skill, kindness, and a "hammy" sense of humor that is refreshing.

Health Alliance for Austin Musicians
3036 S. First

photo by Jana Birchum

image via Facebook

Best Scream Queen Duo

When Zane Zena and Louisianna Purchase join forces, every day is Halloween. With their twice-a-month horror drag series Die Felicia, this terrifying twosome gives a whole new meaning to Scream Queens, and they’ve got what it takes to share their Final Girls title. From the movies they screen (hellloooo Monster Squad and Lost Boys) to their killer costume contests, these badass babes don’t disappoint the scary movie fan in all of us. Catch ’em creepin’ at Elysium every third Thursday and at Barrel o’ Fun on the last Sunday of the month.

Readers: Sports & Recreation
Critics: Food & Drink

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