Best Arts Destination
432 State St., Schenectady
It would be easy to lose count of how many performance venues there are at Proctors, except that, any given week, there’s something going on in most of them. You can enjoy Broadway shows, comedy, movies and concerts on the Mainstage; comedy, concerts and movies in the GE Theatre; Classic Theatre Guild productions in the Fenimore Gallery; concerts and MOPCO’s improv comedy at Underground at Proctors. There’s even an indoor farmers market—with live entertainment, of course—in the winter. There is always a reason to go to Proctors.
Best Arts Programming
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy
Dance, cinema, music, visual and performance art, and conversations about the arts: EMPAC continues to be as much about exploration as presentation. And we’re all better off for it.
Best Arts Happening
The Place Beyond the Pines
This gritty, gripping crime-and-corruption drama paradoxically made folks in the Capitol Region feel good. Schenectady got its close-up (and was ready for it), and the city celebrated a splashy premiere even Bradley Cooper didn’t want to miss. The media got to obssess over genuine movie stars, and exhbitors from Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland to the Spectrum 8 Theatres to Scotia Cinema sold a lot of tickets. So much win.
New York State Museum
Empire State Plaza, Albany
The New York State Museum has something for everyone. History, art, culture, geology, flora and fauna . . . It’s a worthy celebration of the Empire State, and—in case you forgot—it has a really sweet carousel.
Best Museum (Under Construction)
Clark Art Institute
225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.
The grand reopening will be in 2014, but right now you can see a spectacular Winslow Homer exhibit, take the little ones to the Kidspace show and attend superb film and concert series. Even under contruction, a trip to the Clark is a must.
Best Regional Museum
Albany Institute of History & Art
125 Washington Ave., Albany
Telling the story of a 327-year-old city through its art and culture is the mission of the Albany Institute—and they tackle this impossible task with elegance and insight. This is reflected throughout the museum, but to understand what we’re getting at, check out two current exhibitions: Multiple Focus, a contemporary photography show, and the Norman Rice exhibit.
Best Specialized Museum
Norman Rockwell Museum
Route 183 Stockbridge, Mass.
It’s not just that the curators find new ways to present/interpret the museum’s impressive collection of works by the great American illustrator; they do. It’s how they’ve showcased the importance of illustration (and animation) in American art.
Best Contemporary Museum
87 Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
At any given time, MASS MoCA will have eight or 10 significant, can’t-miss exhbits going on. (Have you seen Xu Bing: Phoenix? Good lord.) Add in film screenings, lectures and fests like Solid Sound, and you realize how special MASS MoCA is.
Best Family Museum
39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
The Berkshire Museum always has something in its halls to please and fascinate visitors of any age. Along with fine art, and cultural and natural history, there are often-interactive special exhibits as well as the aquarium touch pool, dinosaur dig and the Fiegenbaum Hall of Innovation. Not to mention special children’s events like Museum Adventures and productions by the Barrington Stage Company Youth Theatre.
Best Floating Museum
Port of Albany
The former U.S. Navy Destroyer Escort, now an essential Albany museum, is both a window into American history and a testament to the kind of dedication preserving that history requires.
Albany Center Gallery
39 Columbia St., Albany
Another solid year of shows at Albany’s great downtown gallery. Check out the aptly titled group show Whimsicality, now on view through August 17.
Best New Gallery
Thompson Giroux Gallery
57 Main St., Chatham
Consistently high-quality shows, coupled with the highest standards of curatorial professionalism, has distinguished this gallery. But, whether showing the best local artists or hosting Ellsworth Kelly’s 90th birthday show (!), small town informality is the prevailing vibe.
Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George
The Hyde Collection
A triumph that combines artistic and historical significance in way that can be reveled in—and will be remembered. The Hyde’s companion Alfred Stieglitz show and the Filming O’Keeffe production by Adirondack Theatre Festival are key, too.
Best Arts Night
Troy Night Out
There’s something special about Troy Night Out, thanks in part to the walkable charm of the Collar City’s compact downtown. Maybe all those Uncle Sams have something to do with it, too.
Spectrum 8 Theatres
290 Delaware Ave., Albany
Programming, presentation, snack bar and friendly staff: These have made the Spectrum 8 Theatres a moviegoing institution. They’re a neighborhood fave and a regional destination.
Best Multiplex Cinema
Regal East Greenbush 8
279 Troy Road, Rensselaer
When it was built, the (AMC? Hoyts?) East Greenbush 8 cinema was a lonely outpost in the suburban frontier. Though now it’s in the middle of a big-box retail wonderland, it retains its ’80s-style charm and offers a first-rate movie presentation.
Best Neighborhood Cinema
117 Mohawk Ave., Scotia
This cozy 1929 house shows second-run movies at family-friendly prices. The sight lines are good and the balcony is awesome. We admit it: We love any theater with a balcony.
Best Drive-In Movie Theater
Malta Drive-In Theatre
2785 Route 9, Malta
Drive-ins have steadily disappeared across the country, but the Capital Region is blessed with a few fine ones. The Malta Drive-In is special—and if you try ’em this weekend, they’re offering triple features.
Best Improved Small Town Independent Cinema
48 Main St., Chatham
This previous winner now boasts a brand-new digital 3D sound and projection system. The nice folk who run the theater haven’t gotten greedy, though; prices are still a most affordable $5 for 2D and a measly $7 for 3D. The popcorn’s cheap and good too!
Best Film Series
19 Clinton Ave., Albany
This is, hands down, our favorite place to see a classic movie. It’s what the Palace was built for, after all. Their 35MM film series is a joy, with a weird and wonderful array of cartoons, ads and trailers accompanying the main feature.
Best Theater Company
Capital Repertory Theatre
111 N. Pearl St., Albany
Capital Repertory Theatre had a solid 2012-13 season, including Race, Red and The Single Girls Guide; its collaboration with Upstate Actors Equity on the New Act: New Play Summit was the most promising new theater offering of the year.
Best Alfresco Theater
Washington Park, Albany
Their 25th anniversary season is the perfect time to acknowledge the asset that Park Playhouse is to Albany’s cultural richness—and summer fun. (There’s still time to see Spamalot; Shrek the Musical is next.)
Best Dance Company
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
Albany’s professional modern dance troupe continues to earn plaudits for innovative programming, including this’s year’s river-themed performances that have taken them from Amsterdam and Greenwich to (upcoming) Shushan and Cambridge. You can still catch them at the Egg, too.
Best Dance Festival
358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
Cutting-edge, internationally renowned dance presented at one of the most beautiful Summer venues within driving distance. What’s not to love?
Albany Symphony Orchestra
Another great year for the Capital Region’s orchestra jewel. Under the direction of David Alan Miller, the American Music Festival at EMPAC was a success and the Carnegie Hall concert a triumph.
Best Performance Artist
Power Animal Systems is only the latest in Jason Martin’s long career of crazy, provocative and unsettling acts. From Brown Cuts Neighbors to the Jason Martin Electrical Band, he’s flexed his talents as a musician and video artist, but his latest work with sci-fi half-animal wrestling creatures is by far his oddest and most engaging.
His Brew Ha-Ha comedy shows have made him widely known (and very successful), but Aidala’s a pretty funny guy himself.
Bing Bamboo Room Burlesque
79 N. Pearl St., Albany
Whether hosted by Guy Smiley or a special guest, the fun and frisky Bing Bamboo gang deliver the right balance of funny, saucy and sexy.