Best of Seattle: Arts & Culture Winners
As chosen by our readers.
Frye Art Museum
I think that the Frye clinched this category—surprisingly, over SAM—last fall, when its #SocialMedium show invited visitors to vote for their favorites among 232 works in its collection. Over 4,000 votes were cast via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr; in effect, the audience curated what proved to be a very popular show. The Frye is also free—always a key selling point for younger, social-media-besotted museumgoers—and possesses the commendable determination to package its landscape and figurative works in an accessible and, dare I say, populist way. SAM and others are also fighting the presumption that all museumgoers are gray-haired (or tourists), but the Frye is leading the way. 704 Terry Ave., 622-9250, fryemuseum.org
Runner-Up: Seattle Art Museum
Relatively new on the gallery scene, Vermillion enjoys a prime Capitol Hill location—one reason for its popularity. Another point in its favor: It’s a bar (with kitchen) that also hosts regular music events (including a cassette night, which is almost a swap meet). Established by Diana Adams in 2007, Vermillion programs for a younger sort of patron. Recent shows have included a collaboration between young artists Roya Falahi and Wendy Red Star Yadda, a contemporary spin on traditional Mexican folk art, and even a show by legendary animator Bruce Bickford (if not young, then certainly young at heart). And of course there are more events above and beyond standard gallery fare: poetry readings, DJs, and record-release parties. 1508 11th Ave., 709-9797, vermillionseattle.com
Runner-Up: Ghost Gallery
Best Event Series
First Thursday Art Walk
Read about the art walk’s humble beginnings here.
Best Visual Artist(s)
Read about how they do what they do here.
Runner-Up: Amanda Manitach
Join in Seattle Weekly’s sHITbARF Spew Map Cultural Heritage Project here.
Runner-Up: John Criscitello
God bless Paul Allen’s continued willingness to pour money into the single-screen palace that is the Cinerama. Originally built in 1963 to show films made in the three-projector Cinerama process (which it still does on occasion) and purchased by Allen in 1999, it’s since been renovated several times—most recently with a new digital projector, improved sound, and better seating. (Not that there was anything wrong with the old seats.) And the Cinerama doesn’t show just blockbusters (Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation now, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. next week); Allen regularly lends the theater to nonprofits, hosts SIFF screenings, and programs regular widescreen mini-festivals for 70mm gems like Lawrence of Arabia. There is no better place in Seattle to see Peter O’Toole in the Sahara. 2100 Fourth Ave., 448-6680, cinerama.com
Runner-Up: SIFF Uptown
When Marshawn Lynch got some heat for his attitude following the Super Bowl, who leapt to his defense with a poem? None other than our National Book Award-winning Sherman Alexie, always a staunch defender of misunderstood “others” like himself, a proud Native American. With titles including Reservation Blues, Indian Killer, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; several volumes of poetry and short stories; plus a movie directing credit (the underrated 2002 The Business of Fancydancing), the fierce, funny 48-year-old writer is perhaps our city’s most prolific and wide-ranging creative force. (His next effort, a picture book for children calledThunder Boy Jr., is due next May.) And he’s on Twitter, of course. Honestly, it’s hard to think of a literary medium he hasn’t mastered—clay tablets, perhaps; or maybe it’s time for him to roll out his own app. fallsapart.com
Runner-Up: Sarah Gavin
Elliott Bay Book Company
Popping into Elliott Bay Books on a daytime stroll through Capitol Hill is always a good idea. There’s nothing like the smell of rain, books, coffee, and all that wood to boost your spirits and remind you why you put up with this godforsaken, waterlogged city nine months out of the year. The lighting makes the place feel warm and aesthetically pleasing; all the books you forgot you wanted to read seem to appear magically on the shelves; and there’s ample space to hunker down and actually read them—before buying them, of course. 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com
Runner-Up: Twice Sold Tales
Best Comics Artist
Memoir and music always run through Forney’s work, whether in three-panel comics; graphic novels, including Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me (from 2012); or omnibus collections like I Love Led Zeppelin (2006). Her commercial illustrations have been featured in our pages, those of The Stranger and the P-I, and in books by Sherman Alexie (see below). Forney has a clarity and asperity in her linework that looks back to the newspaper comic strips of her youth (and the record albums, and the gig posters . . . ), but she’s never one to wallow in nostalgia. Her art engages with Seattle as it is now, not as we sometimes remember it. ellenforney.com
Runner-Up: Max Clotfelter
Read all about Montgomery’s stint on Last Comic Standing and his thoughts on social media and the Seattle comedy scene here.
Runner-Up: Dina Martina
Best Comedy Night
In a little more than two years, this curated, female-friendly (but not exclusive) open mic has worked its way into the firmament of the Seattle comedy scene despite being the antithesis of the archetypal comedy club where anything goes and no one is safe. And, yes, that means there are rules. No misogynistic, homophobic, or racist jokes are tolerated, and, wouldn’t you know it, there is still plenty of great material left to have the Grotto of the Rendezvous doubled over in laughter every Tuesday night. comedywomb.com
Runner-Up: Theater Sports
Best Comic Book Shop
While its role as publisher of high-quality comic work from legends and future legends gives the Fantagraphics name its gravitas, it’s the bookstore and gallery in Georgetown where you can bring out-of-towners to say, “Yup, this is the city where I live—how cool is this!” It has the culture of a traditional comic shop, where you hunt through shelves looking for hidden treasures. Universes of comics can be found on its shelves, but house titles like Fante Bukowski and The Hip Hop Family Tree are the must-reads. And for those traditionalists, Fantagraphics also reprints old comics, bringing back to life what otherwise might have been lost. 1201 S. Vale St., 658-0110, fantagraphics.com
Runner-Up: Phoenix Comics & Games
Best Theater Company
On the Boards
Sure, the Rep, ACT, and even Intiman are more established, but On the Boards has youth on its side. Had we harvested Best of Seattle ballots by mail instead of online, the results might be different. But give credit to OTB for scrappy, short-run programming for which you can generally walk up and buy a ticket on the night of performance. Prices are popular, and the acts come direct from the fringe scenes in Brooklyn and beyond. (Oh, is Brooklyn not trendy enough for you? How about Detroit or Buffalo?) Founded in 1978, OTB found its current home in Lower Queen Anne in 1998 (in ACT’s old digs). Now, by happy coincidence, it’s being surrounded by new apartments full of Amazon workers and other tech-oriented millennials. Its demo is the neighborhood demo; and more of its shows, including the annual NW New Works Festival, include video, interactive, and other tech elements. 100 W Roy St., 217-9886, ontheboards.org
Runner-Up: The 5th Avenue Theatre
Read about Kitchens’ fantasy production—which includes a Safeco-like amphitheater—here.
Runner-Up: MJ Sieber
Seattle has a lot of veteran stage talent, but Emily Chisholm is emphatically a millennial. She drew raves this spring as the young slacker projectionist in New Century Theatre Company’s somewhat experimental The Flick, then embraced the traditional romance of the Rep’s two-hander Outside Mullingar only a few months later. You wouldn’t believe the downcast cinéaste and the proud, grudge-nurturing Irishwoman were played by the same performer. Nor does the heroine of last year’s Bethany at ACT, a grim survivor of the mortgage-foreclosure meltdown, have anything in common with Chisholm’s diverse portfolio of roles. But she makes you believe in all these women’s willful determination.
Runner-Up: Benjamin McFadden
Best Dance Company
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Like any major Seattle cultural institution, Pacific Northwest Ballet (founded in 1972) can’t afford to rest on its laurels—and it’s not. Though PNB continues to mount classics like Nutcracker (to be revamped this November with the Balanchine choreography; tickets now on sale), there are plenty of new dances being added to the old repertory nuggets. The new season will include recent works by Justin Peck (set to a score by rocker Sufjan Stevens), Christopher Wheeldon, and Alejandro Cerrudo. Outreach and education are also key to reaching younger dancegoers: Artistic director Peter Boal will host four casual Friday previews (and selected Q&As), while Doug Fullington continues his ever-popular pre-show lectures. Today’s dance newbie is tomorrow’s season-ticket holder. pnb.org
Runner-Up: Velocity Dance Center
Best Music Venue
Its classic marquee might’ve tipped you off, but did you know the Showbox is 76 years old? Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole played there. People use the label “institution” pretty liberally in Seattle, but in this instance it’s more than merited for a club that’s stood the test of time and continues to deliver, hosting amazing acts like Swans, the Blood Brothers, even a two-night stint by Prince in 2013. And as La Luz’s upcoming all-ages $5 show there proves, the club is still willing to hold it down for the kids, a rarity in Seattle’s overwhelmingly 21-and-up landscape. 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxpresents.com
Best Record Label
No surprise here. Sub Pop has been holding down the Seattle music scene for almost 30 years. And, uh, they also pretty much started the Seattle music scene, thanks to Bruce Pavitt’s dedication to independent regional music, transforming a city known in the ’80s as something of a musical backwater into one of the most recognizable music cities in the world. Although they’ve grown into a global force, Sub Pop still honors its regional roots, showcasing amazing local talent like Rose Windows, Strange Wilds, THEESatisfaction, Porter Ray, and Shabazz Palaces, the latter of which they even signed as an A&R man. Congrats on the win, Losers. subpop.com
Runner-Up: Hardly Art
Best Folk/Roots Artist
Although Jurado certainly fits the classic acoustic guitar-slinging folk-troubadour mold, his success lies in the moments he breaks outside of it. Take his latest record, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, which, in addition to the classic ballads you’d expect, ventures into trippy, pot-tinged psychedelia and shimmering Brazilian grooves, all bolstered by a healthy dose of Beatles-style studio engineering trickery. Jurado is proof that a folk approach to songwriting doesn’t have to be mired in tradition. The stronger your roots, the firmer an anchor you have to grow upward and outward to weirder, woozier heights. damienjurado.com
Runner-Up: Blackheart Honeymoon
Best Electronic Artist
Read all about Vox Mod’s tattoos—and how they relate to his music—here.
Best Hip-Hop Act
The best thing about a Shabazz Palaces’ record is that the more you listen to it, the more mysteries unfold. Ishmael Butler’s brilliantly cryptic rhymes are dense and rich, dripping with cosmic wisdom and a Shakespearean command of the English language. Only Butler could deliver a line like “Farceur, quite simply it is him, it’s black-ephilic, petalistic palistrophic hymns” without blinking. If you want to decipher his lyrics, you’re likely going to learn 20 or 30 new words in the process. On top of the duo’s singular production style, which veers and undulates over percussionist Tendai Maraire’s knotty African rhythms, albums like Lese Majesty and Black Upstand not only at the forefront of Seattle hip-hop, but at the forefront of hip-hop, period.shabazzpalaces.com
Best Metal Band
Read all about the super weird concept behind Lesbian’s next album here.
Runner-Up: Bell Witch
Best Jazz Group
It’s not often you see a jazz group pack Neumos or rock a stage at Capitol Hill Block Party, but Industrial Revelation is not your average jazz band. Ahamefule J. Oluo’s trumpeting, Evan Flory-Barnes’ upright bass, D’Vonne Lewis’ drumming, and Josh Rawlings’ keys are certainly rooted in the jazz tradition (Lewis studied it in high school, the other three at Cornish with famed saxophonist Hadley Caliman), but they veer all over the place, taking inspiration from hip-hop, punk, funk, and indie rock. industrialrevelation.com
Runner-Up: Garfield High School Jazz Band
Best Pop Band
Death Cab for Cutie
Even though guitarist/producer Chris Walla, the band’s anchor, jumped ship on its newest recordKitsungi, people still can’t get enough of good ol’ Death Cab for Cutie. Maybe that’s because indie-superstar front man Ben Gibbard is still as heart-on-sleeve as ever, writing about his high-profile divorce from actress Zooey Deschanel, disillusionment with the trappings of a life briefly lived in L.A., and—a theme that’s tracked through the band’s entire career—the general feeling that things are falling apart. Pretty dark for a pop band. deathcabforcutie.com
Runner-Up: La Luz
Best Punk Band
Read about the fabulous lives of punk royalty here.
Runner-Up: Blood Drugs
Any longtime Seattleite worth their salt has at least one Bush Gardens story. Mine involves a lot of cheap tequila, Right Said Fred, and a few additional details that are definitely not fit to print. The appeal of Bush Garden is that any night of the week you meet some fascinating people, see some fantastic (or fantastically bad) karaoke, and create a story for yourself. Hopefully even more ridiculous than mine. 614 Maynard Ave. S., 682-6830, bush garden.net
Runner-Up: Rock Box
Best Local Nonprofit
Corporate radio has its moments, but you just can’t trust that your favorite station will be around for your next commute. KEXP, on the other hand, is as consistent as it is good. Their DJs are Seattle sweethearts, their programming is eclectic, and it’s fair to say that the music community around here wouldn’t feel like home without this little radio station with a global reach. Sure, they’ll interrupt a killer afternoon set to pander incessantly for donations, but they’re just trying to move into a new home—which, if all goes as planned, will give listeners a chance to watch in-studios at Seattle Center. So give, and listen. kexp.org
Runner-Up: Seattle Children’s Hospital
Seattle International Film Festival
Somewhat surprisingly defeating Bumbershoot and Folk Life, the Seattle International Film Festival is so popular in part because it’s now a year-round operation. Sure, its defining aspect continues to be the monthlong cinematic extravaganza beginning in mid-May (the best-attended film festival in the U.S.), but its three locations—Uptown, Egyptian, and Film Center—are also booked during the other 11 pages of the calendar. This gives SIFF’s members and volunteers a constantly shifting buffet of indie, foreign, repertory, and Hollywood offerings. Now serving beer and wine, SIFF has also embraced the live-presentation model of hosting filmmakers (and comics and historians and what have you); other evenings feature Skype and satellite intros; and the ever-popular NT Live series sates the tastes of local theatergoers who can’t afford to fly over to London or New York to catch the latest show. SIFF has always been international, and now it’s edging beyond film. siff.net