Best Of 2015

Best Annual Tradition
Orlando Museum of Art, 2416 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-4231, omart.org

Are we acting somewhat prematurely in naming this event, in just its second year, Best Annual Tradition? Well, in a word, yes, but we’re hoping a warm reception will ensure its return every summer for years to come. Both years, the Florida Prize show has made us feel like this is a city we want to live in. We are so proud to see our flagship institution embracing contemporary art (not to mention becoming a player on the national stage with shows like January’s Maya Lin: A History of Water) that we might be bragging to our New York and L.A. friends just a little bit. Florida has a lot to offer in the way of vibrant new art, and the Florida Prize puts the best of it in front of lucky Orlandoans – while also putting a hefty cash prize in front of one of the artists every year. (PS: Please keep it up or we’re taking back this award.)

Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture
Best Arts Event/Festival
1. Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, orlandofringe.org

2. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, wpsaf.org

3. Florida Film Festival, floridafilmfestival.com

Best Recurring Arts Nights

1. Thornton 2nd Thursday Wine & Art Walk, thorntonparkdistrict.com

2. 1st Thursdays at Orlando Museum of Art, omart.org

3. Third Thursday Gallery Hop – Downtown Arts District, orlandoslice.com

Best! Show!! Ever!!!
circuscats.com

If you’re an animal lover who just doesn’t cotton to cats, skip to the next entry. Now, to all the cat devotees still reading: If you didn’t see the Acrocats’ first-ever Orlando appearance at the Venue in March, you missed the greatest stage performance in the whole history of everything. Samantha Martin’s troupe of rescued felines can walk tightropes, balance on balls and play musical instruments – and occasionally they even do so on command! Did we mention the percussion-playing chicken named Cluck Norris? ’Nuff said.

Best Arts Advocate
1. Blue Star

2. Pat Greene

3. Terry Olson

Best Ladies’ Room

Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, 407-646-2526, cfam.rollins.edu

In April, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum opened Women and Abstraction, a major survey of abstract and minimalist art made by female artists from the late 1940s to the present. For CFAM curator Amy Galpin, it was a passion project long in the making; for the rest of the community, it was simply jaw-dropping. Works by giants like Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Helen Frankenthaler joined lesser-knowns like Hayal Pozanti and Shinique Smith – 80 years’ worth of abstract art so powerful it gave viewers chills. Under the leadership of Galpin and director Ena Heller, and with this show coming on the heels of CFAM’s formidable Kara Walker exhibition, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), it definitely felt like the Year of the Woman at CFAM.

Best Burlesque Troupe
1. Peek-A-Boo Burlesque, stardustorlando.com

2. VarieTease, thevenueorlando.com

3. Polylust Burlesque, polylust.tumblr.com

Best Comedy (club, group or night)
1. SAK Comedy Lab, 29 S. Orange Ave., 407-648-0001, sak.com

2. Improv Orlando, 9101 International Drive, 407-480-5233, theimprovorlando.com

3. Shit Sandwich at Bull & Bush, 2408 E. Robinson St., shit-sandwich.com

Best Reward  for Loyalty
Photo by Constance Kostrevski
Despite its beloved status among Orlando wordsmiths prior to its recent finale, Speakeasy at Will’s Pub – like any recurring event – had very hit-or-miss attendance. People who missed the Aug. 19, 2014, edition of Speakeasy, however, were shown exactly why it pays to make the effort to get out of the house. He’s got a new Comedy Central show and a big reputation these days, but back then Hannibal Buress was in town for a two-man show at UCF when he dropped in, signed up and tested out some new material to a handful of surprised – and later smug – regulars.
Best Film Festival  or Series
1. Florida Film Festival, floridafilmfestival.com

2. Uncomfortable Brunch, uncomfortablebrunch.com

3. Love Your Shorts, loveyourshorts.com