Best Of 2013

1. The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, orlandofringe.org
2. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, wpsaf.org
3. Nerdapalooza, nerdapalooza.org

1. Acme Ferox Art Night, acme-superstore.com
2. Third Thursday Arts Walk and gallery hop, downtown Orlando, cityartsfactory.com
3. 1st Thursdays at Orlando Museum of Art, omart.org

Best Artist With Guts

Boy Kong 

Play Nice, Die Young at Peacock Room, May 2013
900 Lives at CityArts Factory, June 2013
facebook.com/boy.kong

Orlando artist Boy Kong first wowed us with his spectacular 3-D painted-wood works displayed at Tako Cheena last October (Anti-Happy Story Time), and that was before we found out that he’s only 19 years old. Following his first Art Basel Miami Beach show in December, Kong has been working relentlessly to fill gallery walls. His May show at Peacock Room, Play Nice, Die Young, was “inspired by the Greeks’ ‘black-figure’ paintings,” he said, and gave us a glimpse into the guts of some of Kong’s spirit animals. But it was his contribution to June’s B-Side Artists Annual Showcase, 900 Lives, that really stunned us. Kong hand-cut and painted 100 seemingly identical maneki-neko (“lucky cat”) prints, each “gifted with their own human touch/flaws.” Boy Kong’s YouTube videos reveal a young artist willing to invest the hard work necessary to bring his wooden menagerie to life.

1. Frankie Messina, Apartment E, apartmente.com
2. Patrick Greene, Gallery at Avalon Island, avalongallery.org
3. Parker Sketch, local artist, parkersketch.blogspot.com

Best Comic Book Based on a Visit to Central Florida

Breakers

So What? Press
sowhatpress.com/breakers

The Atlantic Center for the Arts, our New Smyrna Beach gem of cutting-edge creativity-slash-Skinner box experiment in cultural deprivation for visiting artists, recently hosted an all-cartoonist residency. In October 2012, a group of comics creators got together for three weeks of imagination incubation, and this book is the record of their days. Ellen Forney, Dean Haspiel, Megan Kelso, Lara Antal, Sean Ironman and 20 more contribute short strips, ranging in tone from the snarky to the introspective, on the themes of “tropical isolation,” the “wondrous blur of creative freedom” and “other primordial nature.”

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

633 Osceola Ave., Winter Park
407-647-6294
polasek.org

This Czech émigré’s waterfront home is a gorgeous setting for his monumental expressionistic sculptures, dating back to the 1940s. While its current programming suits the Sunday painter more than the serious artist, it is still a beautiful setting for events, and a stroll through the gardens to gaze upon art that was created during World War II, expressing the world’s greatest modern agony, is a powerful experience not to be missed.

1. Orlando Ballet, orlandoballet.org
2. Skill Focus Burlesque, skillfocusburlesque.com
3. Voci Dance, vocidance.org

Fringe Festival takes over Ivanhood

orlandofringe.org

Every day in every way, they’re getting better and better. OK, maybe the organizers of the annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival aren’t chanting 19th-century self-help guru Émile Coué’s famous autosuggestive mantra to themselves, but it’s working anyway. Each year they tackle a new area of the festival to improve, and 2013 was a banner year: The festival spilled out of its Loch Haven boundaries to spread across Ivanhoe Village, with shows at Theatre Downtown and Baby Blue’s new Venue and a 13,000-square-foot warehouse space on Alden Road hosting Visual Fringe. We can’t wait to see how they’re going to top that, but we have faith that they will.

Daytime hours and docent tours at Snap! 2013

snaporlando.com

Art parties are great, but are they great for art? Whether it’s Art Basel Miami Beach or Snap! Orlando, the work is surrounded, almost obscured, by crowds of people – who, as is to be expected at a fabulous social event, are paying more attention to each other than what’s on the walls. It’s fun, sure, but less than optimal for appreciating the art. This year Patrick Kahn took our not-so-subtle hints in that direction and blessedly added daytime hours and even docent-led tours over the two weekend days of his massive and magnificent photography festival. Having the opportunity to drift around the huge warehouse drinking it all in with no distractions was one of the high points of our year – although we hear the opening night party was a blast, too.

Monica Wendel

The Kerouac House
kerouacproject.org

When Brooklyn poet Monica Wendel became the Kerouac House’s latest writer in residence in March, she didn’t waste time discovering our neck of the woods. Besides stealing the show from literary lights Philip Deaver and John King during May’s Functionally Literate reading at the Timucua Arts White House, Wendel also took road trips to tourist destinations like Kennedy Space Center and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Her poetry picked up some Sunshine State stank along the way, illuminating Florida’s inescapable twinges of fear and hopelessness. In “Brain Science,” a new poem written during her stay, Wendel concludes a thought with “even as much as Florida feels like hell, or caves under its own weight into sinkholes that reach the slow-moving aquifer,” suggesting that three months here might just be long enough.