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Best of Arts

by The Staff on July 19, 2012 · 7 comments


Best Arts Complex


432 State St., Schenectady

Proctors photo by Martin Benjamin

Quality programming across genres in multiple venues, simultaneously: Proctors set a high standard for themselves, and meet it. Broadway shows, independent and classic cinema, internationally renowned pop, classical, soul, rock and jazz artists, improv comedy, a venerable folk music series . . . and, in the winter, a farmers market. Truly something for everyone.


Best Arts Programming


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy

EMPAC seemed to come into its own this year, as the curators’ strong, innovative programming were met with big crowds and critical acclaim. Get over it, doubters: EMPAC is here to stay.


Best Museum (In Transition)

Clark Art Institute

225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.

Reconstruction may be in full progress, but the Clark continues to engage with the community (and make its mark on the arts scene) by offering exhibits like its current, terrific trio of China-related shows in any and all available spaces.


Best Museum (Salon)

The Hyde Collection

161 Warren St., Glens Falls

We love the Hyde for its wonderful collection and intimate setting, but also for the notable traveling exhibits it brings to our region. Don’t miss the current Summer of Light shows, which juxtapose contemporary light installations with classic Tiffany designs.


Best Museum (For Everyone)

New York State Museum

Empire State Plaza, Albany

New York State Museum photo by Julia Zave

The New York State Museum suffered the equivalent of a punch in the face from state government in the form of budget cuts, but has continued to serve New York’s citizens in a meaningful way. And New York in Bloom, where art meets nature for three days of eye-popping floral beauty, is one of the great annual events.


Best Museum (Contemporary)


87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.

MASS MoCA continues to expand into its sprawling industrial space, giving us compelling reasons to return again and again. From Oh Canada to the Bang On a Can Festival, this is where you’ll meet “the new” face to face.


Best New Museum

Irish American Heritage Museum

370 Broadway, Albany

Open less than a year, this gallery-style museum is currently hosting an exhibit by internationally acclaimed contemporary Irish artist Roisin Fitzpatrick, which follows several evocative photography exhibits of subjects with relevance to the Irish cultural legacy of New York’s Capital Region. It also offers genealogy classes, events for children, music performances, and other activities that interpret the Irish American experience for the 21st century.


Best Living History Museum

USS Slater

Port of Albany

A previous winner for best floating museum, this heroically restored World War II Destroyer Escort recently achieved National Historic Landmark status. But aside from serving as the most extent example of a crucial Naval military strategy, the Slater bustles with activity on a par with better-known living history museums: conducting tours, sailing its whaleboat, firing its rare weaponry, and being manned by Navy personnel—only now they are veterans doing expert repairs rather than servicemen engaged in war duties.


Best Children’s Museum

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Mass.

The mission of the Eric Carle Museum “is to inspire a love of art and reading in young children through picture books,” and this 10-year-old museum in western Massachusetts accomplishes that goal in flying (and hopping and chirping and twinkling) colors. Besides Carle’s own work (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, etc.), the museum offers nonstop exhibitions of the world’s great illustrators. Rounding out the fun are special events and signings, performances in the on-site theater, and a hands-on art studio that brings out the creative side of youngsters—and often their parents too.


Best Gallery

Opalka Gallery

140 New Scotland Ave., Albany

A strong year for the decade-old (but still fresh and new) gallery on the Sage Campus. The Mark McCarty photography exhibit Skin was particularly memorable.


Best Gallery (Worth a Drive)

The Center for Photography at Woodstock

59 Tinker St., Woodstock

Thematically strong shows are the hallmark of this Woodstock mainstay. If you haven’t made the trip, go.


Best Performance Artist

Abraham Ferraro

The recipe for Abraham Ferraro goes something like this: one part sculptor, one part installation artist, one part performer, a dash of spider monkey, and a pinch of unadulterated insanity. Google his Art Course 101 to get the idea. Even better, check out his contribution to the terrific Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region show, now on view at the University Art Museum. Don’t forget that woven through the entertaining stunts are some heavy criticisms of the very world in which Ferraro’s art exists. We’ll miss him when he moves on to other jungles.


Best Art Trend

Outdoor Art

Streets and sidewalks

It’s been an awesome year for getting out—and out of doors—for art gazing, as streetscapes were opened up by the region’s abundance of artistic talent. Stand in the Soles of Albany, an exhibit of artist-painted, larger-than-life Dutch clogs, may be one of the city’s most popular Sculpture in the Streets series yet; billboards showcased graffiti art instead of products, and CDTA presented a sculpture installation at Art on Lark: Chip Fasciana’s mock bus shelter (made from salvaged materials). It can now be viewed at the Rensselaer Train Station, and there’s probably lots more out there just waiting to be discovered.


Best Community-Building Arts Center

The Foundry for Art  Design + Culture

119 Remsen St., Cohoes

“Manufacturing creativity,” states The Foundry for Art, Design + Culture’s Facebook page. A bold concept born in Cohoes, a municipality ready for a renaissance. Alana Sparrow and Jesse Matulis head the operation, which promotes the socioeconomic well-being of a creative world with career building workshops, music, film showings, art events, and studio space. It’s worth stopping by for a peek; the building received a historic-preservation award this spring.


Best Cinema

Spectrum 8 Theatres

290 Delaware Ave., Albany

This is our region’s “destination” cinema. One visit and you’ll realize why people make the trip: a cine-friendly atmosphere, solid programming and the best snack bar north of New York City.


Best Multiplex Cinema

Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland

400 State St., Schenectady

A warm and friendly moviegoing experience with first rate digital presentations. (Even the commercials aren’t annoying.) Movieland also has the best designed movie-theater lobby built in the Capital Region since . . . the Hellman? Decades, anyway. Another reason to make Schenectady your entertainment destination.


Best Community Cinema

Scotia Cinema

117 Mohawk Ave., Scotia

A neighborhood atmosphere reigns in this cozy 1929 theater in downtown Scotia. The popcorn’s good, and the balcony is awesome.


Best Drive-In Movie Theater

Malta Drive-In Theatre

2785 Route 9, Malta

Summer is all about sitting on lawn chairs in the back of pick-up trucks, eating Sour Patch Kids and watching superheroes beat up supervillains. All of which you can do in supreme American splendor at the Malta Drive-In. The movies change regularly and the snack bar never does.


Best Film Series

Palace Theatre

19 Clinton Ave., Albany

Sitting in the balcony of the Palace Theatre watching a classic movie in 35MM is a heavenly experience for Capital Region cinephiles. The first class presentation usually includes trailers, vintage ads and a cartoon.


Best Theater Company

Barrington State Company

Pittsfield, Mass.

Julianne Boyd and company continue to create great theater in a region that’s known for some of the best theater in the world.


Best Community Theater

Ghent Playhouse

6 Town Hall Place, Ghent

Our critic summed it up best in a review of the February production of Urinetown: “The cast of the Ghent Playhouse’s production are so enthusiastic, charming and uniformly talented that it makes up for the occasional thinness of the play, itself.” Yes, Ghent Playhouse is that good.


Best New Community Theater

Troy Civic Theatre


Formed just a few months ago around the kitchen table of longtime community thespian Scott Truesdell-Liebig, Troy Civic Theatre rounded their beginner’s learning curve with record speed, debuting with a sold-out reading of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge followed by a sold-out presentation of Godspell. TCT’s updated (but not modernized) version of the ’70s Broadway musical earned the fledgling company three adjudicator awards from the Theater Association of New York State: for best ensemble acting, best design, and a best director for Truesdale-Liebig. Next up: Rehearsal for Murder. And yes, we’re dying to see it.


Best Dance Company

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

Excellent in conception and performance are the key to Ellen Sinopoli’s aesthetic longevity; community outreach is the other.


Best Dance Festival

Jacob’s Pillow

358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

The greatest dancers in the world performing in one of the most beautiful settings in the region. Simply wonderful.


Best Orchestra

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller and company present concerts that challenge, engage and entertain, year after year, at a uniformly high level. A treasure.


Best Writer

Shane Jones

Shane Jones is living a bit of the indie-lit dream. After publishing a couple of chapbooks with small presses, Jones’ debut novel Light Boxes was optioned by Spike Jonze and reissued by Penguin. His latest surreal fable, Daniel Fights a Hurricane, is only a couple of weeks away from hitting the bookstores, and we can already tell you that it is worth a trip to the Book House.


Best Burlesque

Burlesque Paradiso

198 Central Ave., Albany

Burlesque Paradiso photo by Ann Morrow

For impresario Mr. James and his vintage-style striptease troupe, the roaring Twenties are as racy as ever: Presented every First Friday at Albany’s famed former speakeasy, Ristorante Paradiso, each show includes national and local tarts, flappers, molls and fatales taking it off to the hottest jazz (and blues and show tunes) of yesteryear, while naughty comedy skits mine classic vaudeville and 1940s noir to recapture the risque allure of bygone eras.


Best Band

The Parlor

The Parlor photo by Julia Zave

Formerly We Are Jeneric, the Parlor emerged this year from a period of dormancy with a new name and a new record, Our Day in the Sun, that ranks among the best to come out of this region probably ever. Combining their previous penchant for homespun indie folk with a new sensibility that falls somewhere between Phil Spector and Animal Collective, the Parlor are creating some of the freshest, most creative music you’re likely to find around town—or the Internet.


Best Rock Band

Wild Adriatic

There’s something almost quaint about what Saratoga’s Wild Adriatic do: rock really friggin’ hard with beefy riffs and velvety vocals. Maybe retro’s a better word, since the band’s ’70s cop-flick pastiche music video recently premiered on Relix.com. The band only have a pair of EPs under their belts, but if that’s what’s keeping you from checking out their live act, you’re really missing the point.


Best Indie Rock Band

Alta Mira

Alta Mira flipped the script when it came time to record their sophomore album, I Am the Salt. What, for most bands, proves a difficult task in simultaneously preserving what made the debut special while growing toward maturity, for Alta Mira came off like child’s play. Riding the noticeable influence of Radiohead and TV on the Radio, the quartet synthesized lush lyricism and harmonic textures with accessible melodies and a beat that won’t quit. Their upcoming Northeast tour will, no doubt, yield a growing following.


Best New Band

The City Never Sleeps

These guys are baby-face young but you wouldn’t know it by the way they play. Having sprung up around last year’s debut Madison, The City Never Sleeps have become one of the busiest live acts in the area, scoring some high-exposure public gigs and an endless string of club dates in between.


Best Prog Band

Timbre Coup

Don’t call them a jam band. Fine, call them what you will; it’s not going to change the fact that Timbre Coup have become a dexterous force within the Northeast livetronic scene. Take a look at any festival bill and you’re likely to find them in a late-night slot. And this winter’s Knuckles and Valleys proved that the boys can hold their own in the studio, to boot.


Best Country Band

Eastbound Jesus

Don’t go to an EBJ show and expect to leave without whiskey, beer or blood on your shirt. With hard picking and stick-it-to-the-man choruses, these guys are making it OK to like country music again, with a tip of the hat to Waylon, Willie and the outlaws of yesteryear. This winter’s Holy Smokes! is well worth the exclamation point.


Best Punk Band (Surf)

Banzai Washout

Named after the breakneck Dick Dale rocker, Banzai Washout is a sunny splash of punk rock with just enough surf guitar to keep their tunes in the curl and out of the drink.


Best Punk Band (Turf)

The Slaughterhouse Chorus

You might call the Slaughterhouse Chorus “cowpunk,” what with their rural blend of rustic Americana, banjo, dobro and bird-flipping punk ethos, but we think “punk” alone will suffice, because what’s more punk rock than a song about Brooklyn called “Guns N’ Cattle”?


Best R&B Band


“R&B” doesn’t quite describe the “Mirkin’ around” this hip-hop-infused seven-piece has been up to in the last year. Having released Grind with a blowout at the Washington Avenue Armory this spring, MIRK have logged considerable stage time in this region and beyond, often with Lost Boyz rapper Mr. Cheeks in tow.


Best Hip-Hop (Band)


“It’s rap rock but not like Limp Bizkit.” That’s how guitarist Matt Ferguson first described his new project with Honeycreeper rhythm section Sean Fortune and El Mustango and rapper Sev Statik. It’s more than true; it’s one of the coolest collaborative projects we’ve heard in some time, having already opened for Rakim in their young tenure.


Best Hip-Hop (DJ)


The hardest working DJ in Albany, TruMastr continues to host some of the best theme-based hip-hop and soul nights around—not to mention his annual birthday party the Beat*Shot Music Festival.


Best Electronic Artist


While monthly electronic showcase Outpost1 may currently be on break, resident Saratoga-based DJ Knomad remains on the forefront of local electronic music. Between his WCDB show, residency at Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge and live mixes in our area, Knomad has asserted himself as a tastemaker and landed opening slots for Bonobo and Four Tet along the way.


Best Acoustic Act

Rosary Beard

There’s no predicting what Matthew Loiacono will try next (like, reconvene the Kamikaze Hearts for this year’s Rest Fest!), and this all-instrumental acoustic guitar project with Alta Mira’s Hunter Sagehorn was certainly a welcome surprise. Rosary Beard’s debut, Halfmoon Fever, is nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous and has already garnered some national exposure on John Diliberto’s syndicated late-night ambient radio show Echoes.


Best Folk Act

The Lucky Jukebox Brigade

We use the term folk liberally to describe the appeal of the Lucky Jukebox Brigade, an eight-piece band we’d otherwise need a quiver of hyphens and terms like vaudevillian and carnival to describe. At the root of the band’s recent debut, Pretty Well Damned, is tight, melodic storytelling in the great American folk tradition. It’s just icing on the cake that there’s euphonium.


Best Old-Time Band

The Sunny Side of the Street Band

True to their name, the best place to catch the Sunny Side of the Street band is busking on some street corner—although their proper stage shows are nice too. It’s this timeless, hat-passing spirit that earns them an old-time honor here, more than the preservationist ethos that generally garners the term. We just think our grandparents could get down to these guys’ upright bass and trombone as well as we can.


Best Jazz

The Chronicles

Full disclosure: Chronicles saxophonist Jeff Nania is a Metroland contributor, but let the record show that a democracy of freelancer opinions selected his band for this honor. The group have stayed on the front edge of progressive jazz since their inception, incorporating plenty of funk and hip-hop along the way. And going on the expanded geographic reach of their touring, the sound is catching on.


Best Male Songwriter

Sean Rowe

This award is nothing new to Troy songsmith Sean Rowe, who signed a couple years back with ANTI- records. In a couple weeks, though, he’ll release his second ANTI-backed record called The Salesman and the Shark, and the Internet is already abuzz with accolades that make this honor pale in comparison.


Best Female Songwriter

MaryLeigh Roohan

With all-female supergroup Babe City (MaryLeigh Roohan, Olivia Quillio, Caroline Corrigan, Meagan Duffy) on the scene these days—in one band, no less—it’s delightfully hard to parse who’s the finest pen in the land. The award this year goes to Roohan, though, who has three acts with which to ply her trade, including Best New Band contender MaryLeigh and the Fauves and surf poppers Party Boat.


Best Producer/Engineer

Frank Moscowitz

Black Dog Recording Studio

A wizard of the board, Frank Moscowitz has been responsible for a number of excellent records from the above bands. His band Swamp Baby ain’t so shabby either.


Best Name

$weatpant$ Money

“You ever broken a Puerto Rican dude’s arm for sweatpants money?” Tracy Jordan has.


Best Scene Booster

Tim Reidy

Dude sees more shows in a month than there are days in a month. Local music wouldn’t survive without fans like Tim.


Best Drum Circle

The Afro-Cuban group in Washington Park

If you’re walking in Albany’s Washington Park this weekend, follow the clave rhythm toward the playground for one of the hottest Afro-Cuban percussion groups you’re likely to stumble upon anywhere. We don’t know much about these guys, except that they keep great time and are better groomed than your average djembe-toting hippies.


Best Venue

Club Helsinki

405 Columbia St., Hudson

Great beer, delicious food, cozy ambiance, excellent booking: Club Helsinki has it all. Since moving to Hudson from Great Barrington, the rustic-yet-classy space has become a force in the upper Hudson Valley music scene, hosting intimate shows with major acts, providing a forum for rising local musicians and altogether creating a welcoming space for audience and performers alike.


Best Rock Club


17 New Scotland Ave., Albany

A place like Valentine’s is built for national indie bands who are just a year or so out from megastardom or who comfortably fly just below the mainstream radar. And that’s exactly the kind of show the venue has booked time and time again this year, from Lower Dens to DIIV, Frankie Rose to Frank Black, Man Man to Langhorne Slim.


Best Upgrade

The Upstate Concert Hall

1208 Route 146, Clifton Park

It’s not for nothing that our perennial Best Venue, Northern Lights, has undergone re-branding and taken a new name. After a couple years of steady improvements to the facility, the Upstate Concert Hall might as well be a brand new venue. And the booking has been better than ever. It’s only a matter of time before this place is the requisite upstate stop for the country’s biggest touring bands.


Best New Venue

Basilica Hudson

110 Front St., Hudson

There’s been a running joke lately that it might be more practical to move to Hudson for the next two months. In just over a year, Basilica Hudson has gone from an unfinished factory space to a bastion of creative booking in the regional music scene. The upcoming Pitchfork-sponsored Basilica Music Festival will be further evidence when Gang Gang Dance, Prince Rama and Liturgy tip off a couple months of shows that will include Lee Renaldo, Grimes and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.


Best DIY Space

51 3rd Street


An unpretentious place like this is only as good as the collective effort that goes into booking shows and spreading the word, and the folks at 51 3rd have been on their game lately. Keep up the good guerrilla work.