Best Of 2018

‘Twelve Thousand Maniacs,’ by Kenya (Robinson)
Photo courtesy of Orlando Museum of Art
‘Twelve Thousand Maniacs,’ by Kenya (Robinson)

Orlando Museum of Art Florida Prize in Contemporary Art

In its fifth year, the OMA's Florida Prize exhibitions continue to amaze. We still have to pinch ourselves to make sure we aren't dreaming when we see the talent that Glen Gentele and Hansen Mulford attract to the City Beautiful each summer, and this year was no different. Kenya (Robinson), whose parenthetical last name is a conscious choice, took home the top prize, and she wowed us with her needle-sharp but cloud-soft social commentary; we fell in love with Rafael Domenech's Memphis-brite assemblages, snickered up our sleeves at Jack Stenner's "WestFAILia" installation, and were pierced to the heart by Glexis Novoa's architectural renderings of disaster. By the time you read this, the 2018 exhibition will have just closed, but if you're anything like us, you're already looking forward to next year.

Arts and Culture: Orlando's best artists, writers, comedians, museums and more

Arts and Culture
Best Antique IMAX

Albert Bierstadt's "The Domes of the Yosemite"

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Your new 75-inch 4K television may seem big, but it's got nothing on Albert Bierstadt's colossal oil painting "The Domes of the Yosemite," which recently concluded its post-restoration debut at Winter Park's Morse Museum. Occupying nearly 150 square feet of canvas, Bierstadt's massive landscape was the 1860s equivalent of IMAX 3-D. The painting's once-in-a-lifetime Orlando exhibition enthralled area art admirers, just as it once did author Mark Twain, until it returned to its Vermont home in July.

Best Artistic Alternative to Sunday Services

Leonard Bernstein's Mass

at UCF Celebrates the Arts

He may be best known for West Side Story, but Leonard Bernstein's 1971 Mass might be the legendary conductor's most ambitious and controversial work. (Leave it to a gay Jewish Broadway composer to transform a Catholic ritual into anti-authoritarian performance art.) In celebration of his 100th birthday, UCF's orchestra, choirs, performers and alumni teamed up with Opera Orlando's youth chorus to stage the "Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers" at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Their massive effort made this rarely seen classic deeply moving.

Best Arts Event or Festival

1. Orlando Fringe Festival,

2. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival,

3. Florida Film Festival,

Best Burlesque Troupe

1. Les Vixens Burlesque,

2. The Ladies of the Peek-a-Boo Lounge,

3. Corsets and Cuties,

Best Comedy Club or Night

1. SAK Comedy Lab,

2. Orlando Improv,

3. Bull & Bush Shit Sandwich,

Best Dance Company

1. Orlando Ballet,

2. Phantasmagoria,

3. VarieTease,

Best Developments Imaginary and Real

Roadsides and Skylines at Gallery at Avalon Island

This Pat Greene-curated mixed-media group show last summer at the Gallery at Avalon Island asked the artists to present new perspectives on living in Florida, and work by Jenn Allen, Spanky Hudas and Wayne Grant ably delivered. But it was the fantastical sculptures of South Florida's DeVan Jimenez and Jacksonville's Crystal Floyd that created whole new worlds out of the flora and detritus of the Sunshine State. Floyd merged shadow boxes, taxidermy, insects and antique ephemera into intricate constructs that begged for repeated viewing, while Jimenez's ceramics suggested whole new evolutionary side roads in a state where invasive species and evolving ecosystems are the rule rather than the exception. This exhibit also inspired the very entertaining "Ekphrastic Floridas" reading with Burrow Press.

Best Florida Read

Florida, by Lauren Groff

When Burrow Press brought Lauren Groff in for their Functionally Literate reading series in 2016, she was fresh off the white-hot success of Fates and Furies, her surprise literary best-seller. But this summer (June 5, to be exact), Groff's latest story collection, simply titled Florida, came out – and it utterly bewitched us. Florida lacks Fates' blockbuster, optioned-by-Hollywood glamour; it's a handful of rough gemstones next to the glittering tiara of Fates. But Florida the book, like Florida the state, is a "dense, damp tangle"; both are built of toxic decay and life-bursting elementals. Hands-down the book of the year for anyone who revels in the darkness of the Sunshine State.

Best Gallery

1. CityArts Factory,

2. Grand Bohemian Gallery,

3. Snap Orlando,