Best of Seattle

The Artists, Actors, Companies, and Curators That Move the City

Seattle Weekly readers tell us who is making the art that matters.

Best Actor

Sara Porkalob Sara Porkalob describes herself as an artist and activist. In addition to numerous shows she has lined up through next July, Porkalob is a co-founder of DeConstruct, an online journal in which artists and academics team up to review performances through a lens of intersectional feminism. She began to develop her solo show Dragon Lady, based on her grandmother’s life in the Philippines, in 2012 when she was at Cornish; it has since evolved through her time as a professional artist and in September will be staged as part of the Intiman Theatre Festival. First Runner-Up: Adara Toop Second Runner-Up: G. Valmont Thomas

Best Author

Sherman Alexie There are many superlative words that can be used to describe the work of Sherman Alexie, but perhaps none is as appropriate as “resilient.” The author transforms tragedy into comedy—makes you laugh and then wonder if it’s OK (it is). His most recent work, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, is a compilation of prose and poetry reflecting on his relationship with his mother, Lillian. It is, of course, a work of resilience. First Runner-Up: Lindy West Second Runner-Up: Donna Miscolta

Best Classical Musician

Beth Fleenor If you’re getting tired of music that’s even remotely formulaic, Beth Fleenor is for you. Her experimental mixing of genres is powerful and refreshing. For the past couple of years, Fleenor has been working under the name Crystal Beth, and sometimes with her band, Crystal Beth and the Boom Boom Room. She hopes to get into the studio in the next couple of months to record a new solo album. First Runner-Up: Mina Miller Second Runner-Up: Craig Sheppard

Best Curator

Chiyo Ishikawa Chiyo Ishikawa is known for her ability to acquire exhibits for the SAM that are hard to come by, including the 2011 Picasso: Masterpieces exhibit, and Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise. When she’s not bringing us some of the coolest art around, you might find her taking part in some of the many educational opportunities SAM has to offer, such as conversations with curators and the Art and Social Justice tour. First Runner-Up: Greg Lundgren Second Runner-Up: Julia Greenway

Best Dance Company

Whim W’Him Whim W’Him dancers are known for their versatility and artistic director Olivier Wevers makes sure to continue pushing them to go even further. For each of the past two years the troupe has hosted three choreographers from around the world who are tasked with creating pieces for the the company to perform at the annual “Choreographic Shindig”—which will be held Sept. 8–10 and 13–16. It will feature the work of Adam Barruch, Banning Bouldin, and Bruno Roque, who hails from Portugal. First Runner-Up: Pacific Northwest Ballet Second Runner-Up: Spectrum Dance Theater

Best Film Director

S.J. Chiro Local director S.J. Chiro recently released her first full-length feature, Lane 1974, which debuted at SXSW this year and later played the Seattle International Film Festival to eager crowds and excellent reviews. Chiro was previously known for her short films, which include “Howard From Ohio” and “The Epiphany.” For those who missed it at SIFF, Lane 1974 was recently acquired by The Orchard and will be released for video on demand Sept. 26. First Runner-Up: Megan Griffiths Second Runner-Up: Charles Mudede

Best Gallery

Vermillion Multifaceted. Risk-taking. Modern. Vermillion is as vibrant as its namesake, a red pigment the same color as a good cabernet. With rotating exhibits by Seattle artists, alternative music acts, and a cozy bar tucked in the back, Vermillion never disappoints. Currently, Sarah Teasdale’s Technaissance is on display until August 5. Check their Facebook pages for other events; there are multiple goings-on each week. First Runner-Up: Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery Second Runner-Up: GALLERY 1/1

Best Museum

Frye Art Museum The Frye saw major changes in leadership over the past year with the introduction of Joseph Rosa as its new director in the fall and Amanda Donnan as the museum’s curator in late July; both bring a wealth of experience. With changing leadership, the Frye maintains its commitment to showcasing thoughtful contemporary art. Storme Webber’s upcoming exhibition, Casino: A Palimpsest, will relay a personal history of one of the oldest gay bars on the West Coast, located in present-day Pioneer Square. First Runner-Up: Seattle Art Museum Second Runner-Up: Museum of Popular Culture

Best Poet

Claudia Castro Luna Claudia Castro Luna, King County’s first Civic Poet, demonstrates an innate understanding of Seattle. Her words paint fear of the future, anxiety for what remains of the city’s identity, and longing for the past. Seattle’s Poetic Grid, her final project, combines Luna’s identities as an immigrant, urban planner, Seattleite, and poet. Each dot on the grid contains a location-based poem written by Seattleites. It is meant to serve as a living testament to the city. First Runner-Up: Jane Wong Second Runner-Up: Ed Skoog

Best Reading Series

Hugo Literary Series When writers read aloud at Hugo House, it’s all about vulnerability. What they read has not been published, edited, or even glanced at by anyone but the writers themselves, providing a unique insight into the individual creative process. Hugo House will soon have a new home to welcome writers at 11th Avenue and East Olive Street, after being temporarily located at 1021 Columbia due to the demolition of its old space last June. First Runner-Up: It’s About Time Reading Series at Seattle Public Library Second Runner-Up: At the Inkwell at Vermillion

Best Theater Company

Seattle Repertory Theatre From premiering plays by August Wilson and Sarah Ruhl to hosting actors such as Meryl Streep and Richard Gere, the theater has certainly earned its fame. When the Rep receives national acclaim, though, it doesn’t forget about its roots. Its presentation of The Odyssey, Sept. 8–10, is the first production of the Theater’s new Public Works program, which aims to bring together Seattle residents of various backgrounds to participate in theater and build community. First Runner-Up: ACT Theatre Second Runner-Up: Taproot Theatre Company

Best Theater Director

Cherdonna Shinatra Drag queen, director, choreographer, and dancer Jody Kuehner (whose drag name is Cherdonna Shinatra) enjoys shattering norms: She’s a female-bodied person who presents as a male-bodied person in drag. In addition to regular drag shows, Kuehner has performed her choreography at a multitude of Seattle venues and events including the Frye, Century Ballroom, Bumbershoot, and Velocity Dance Center, where she was 2014 Artist in Residence. Kuehner’s upcoming show, Kissing Like Babies, examines the infantilization of the feminine and will run Oct. 12–15 at On the Boards. First Runner-Up: Valerie Curtis-Newton Second Runner-Up: Bobbin Ramsey

Best Visual Artist

Juan Alonso Read Jason Simms’ report on the life and art of the Cuban expat. First Runner-Up: Jim Woodring Second Runner-Up: Barbara Earl Thomas

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of G. Valmont Thomas’ name.

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