Best Of 2023

Best Film Festival
FFF Opening Night Party | photo by Liv Jones

1st: Florida Film Festival, floridafilmfestival.com

2nd: Orlando Film Festival, offvirtual.com

3rd: Central Florida Film Festival, centralfloridafilmfestival.com

Best of Orlando 2023: Arts and Entertainment

Best of Orlando 2023: Arts and Entertainment
Best Season for Orlando's Art Scene (No, Hear Us Out): 2022-2023
Emily Martinez, "1-800-Eternity" installation at FAVO | photo by Mauricio "Crummy Gummy" Murillo

Despite the Basquiat-shaped elephant in the room still trampling Orlando's reputation, the visual arts have regained their pre-pandemic momentum. There are dynamite shows from every contender in town: Rollins Museum of Art, Snap!, Mennello Museum of American Art, Hollerbach's ArtHaus, CityArts, the Maitland Art Center, FAVO Arts Village, Flying Horse Editions — even OMA, despite the ongoing De Groft affair. It was a banner year that seamlessly blended local artists with national/international talents. Highlights: the fever pitch opening of Snap's 2022 Florida Showcase, Rollins' exciting new acquisitions from artists like Candida Hofer and José Clemente Orozco, the all-star team home run of the Corridor Project's Billboard Show, contemporary heavyweight Ryan McGinness' collaboration with Flying Horse, Emily Martinez's inspired takeover of the So What space at FAVO, the dazzling patterns of Anila Quayyum Agha at Mennello and many more.

Best Rat-a-tat: Kait Sardin, aka @kaitrock
Screenshot via @Kaitrock on Instagram

It may seem that there are no two more diametrically opposed dance forms than hip-hop and Irish dancing, the straight up-and-down, no upper-body movement jigging somewhat bastardized by Riverdance. (If we were to make an Epic Handshake meme for the two, though, the center would say "Make Some Noise!") But after studying Irish dance from the age of 7, Orlando dancer (and pharmacist by day) Kait Sardin finally found a way to meld her fandom of Beyoncé with her love of hard-shoe and treble reels. She choreographed an Irish-dance version of the dance from Bey's "Formation" video, and she hasn't looked back since. As a Black woman in the lily-white world of dance — particularly Irish dance — Kaitrock admits that she has experienced racism, but she tries not to dwell on it. What can we say? If you don't love Kaitrock, you don't love life.

tiktok.com/@kaitrock; instagram.com/kaitrock

@kaitrock I'm so excited😭😭 #irishdance #renaissance #fypシ ♬ It's Getting Hot - NLE Choppa
Best Freestyle Rap Improv: Free Daps
image via Free Daps on Facebook

This fresh-faced and eager bunch of fellows could be the best — and nicest! — thing to happen to freestyle rap since B-Rabbit extolled the virtues of Mom's spaghetti. Their melding of lightning-quick rhymes with more traditional improv games makes their regular visits to SAK Comedy Lab (an oasis of hometown support on their seemingly endless slate of national appearances) a can't-miss. Breathtakingly smart, fast and funny, they're also multicultural without making it a thing. What's not to love, yo?

linktr.ee/freedaps

Best Art Gallery
CityArts | photo by Anna McCambridge-Thomas

1st: CityArts, downtownartsdistrict.com/cityarts

2nd: Snap! Orlando, snaporlando.com

3rd: College Park Gallery, collegeparkgallery.com

@artistsoncouches x @gabriele_herzog
screenshot via Instagram/@artistsoncouches
@artistsoncouches x @gabriele_herzog

We are huge AOC fans — well, yes, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, but right now we mean Artists on Couches. This project of Orlando-based artist Kelly Joy Ladd has totally caught fire (a term we use with caution since she primarily works in cut paper and textiles) since launching in 2020. Deceptively simple, the Instagram-based project opens worlds to the viewer, connecting artists to art lovers, other artists, and the cosmos. Artists from all over the world answer a question from Ladd, which she records and transcribes, and send along photos of their work and of themselves — on a couch. Ladd's questions elicit answers that range from prosaic process-based details to the ineffable experience of any artist's practice, fumbling toward the divine. Those questions, by the way, serve well as prompts for morning pages (à la Julia Cameron's classic The Artist's Way) for anyone creative, inspiring as they do a vital inward vision.

artistsoncouches.com

Best Museum
Courtesy of Orlando Science Center

1st: Orlando Science Center, osc.org

2nd: Orlando Museum of Art, omart.org

3rd: Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, morsemuseum.org

Best Arts Event or Art Festival
Photo by Brian Harris/courtesy of Orlando Fringe
1st: Orlando Fringe Festival, orlandofringe.org

2nd: Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, wpsaf.org

3rd: EPCOT Festival of the Arts, disneyworld.disney.go.com

Best Recurring Arts Nights

1st: LGBT Center Monthly Art Show, thecenterorlando.org

2nd: Thornton Park 2nd Thursday Wine and Art Walk, thorntonparkdistrict.com

3rd: 3rd Thursdays at CityArts, downtownartsdistrict.com

1st: SAK Comedy Lab, sakcomedylab.com

2nd: The Improv Orlando, theimprovorlando.com

3rd: Bull and Bush Pub, bullandbushorlando.com