By Steven Robert Allen
While digging through the stack of ballots from this year's 2005 Best of Burque, a single vote from a single nimrod nabbed my attention more than any other. In the Best Art Gallery category someone answered, “We have those here?” Dude/dudette, please, don't make me choke you.
Albuquerque has a totally undeserved reputation as a city of backward cretins who don't give a damn about art and culture. Having covered the creative scene here for the last six-odd years, I can tell you that this impression is completely false.
Yes, we live in the shadow of Santa Fe, a much smaller city with an over-inflated impression of its own cultural importance. The truth is, though, that cutting edge, noncommercial artists can't afford to live in Santa Fe, so they choose to live by the thousands in Albuquerque.
For a city this size, we have exceptionally good theater, art, dance, music and literature. If anything, we've got so much simmering creative energy in this town that it's hard to know where to begin exploring it all. That's why we have Best of Burque, of course. Our readers—with a few minor exceptions—know the ins and outs of Albuquerque's cultural landscape better than anyone. Even better, they're willing to share their wisdom and experience with the rest of us.
There's a lot out there. Turn off the TV. Put on your dancing shoes. It's time to step out on the town and discover all the diverse creative culture Albuquerque has to offer.
Best Public Sculpture
Chevy on a Stick
I know you're not going to believe this—hell, we hardly believe it ourselves—but that gorgeous hunk of elevated car known throughout the civilized world as Chevy on a Stick swept the competition for the 86th consecutive year. It's real name is “Cruising San Mateo I,” of course, but the name bestowed on it by the masses is so much catchier, don't you think? It sounds like something you might order from the ice cream man on a hot summer day. Delicious, sweet and—let's face it—so very, very cool.
A distant second was Glenna Goodacre's “Sidewalk Society,” located right outside the Hyatt Downtown. Right behind Goodacre's bronze city dwellers were the new giant pots located in the median along I-40.
Strangely, Don Schrader didn't get a single vote in this category this year, although that stupid rocket outside the Atomic Museum in Old Town got a couple of nods. Tom Waldron's controversial green cone sculpture that was planned for the tiny intersection park at I-40 and Louisiana got a vote, too.
Best Outdoor Mural
“A Little Color Never Hurt”
The sprawling mural designed by Antonio Lente and placed on the side of Working Classroom's building at Second Street and Gold just last year wins this category, and why not? It's a vibrant paean to pluralism in a city that prides itself on its historic diversity.
The ode to books painted on the Main Library Downtown at Fifth Street and Copper was close behind. Third went to the flag-waving celebration of free speech painted on the side of the Ice House.
The tiled mural outside the Convention Center got many votes, as did the spacey mural at Central and Second Street. “Graffiti in the South Valley” got one vote.
If there's a single building in Albuquerque that symbolizes the entire city, it would have to be the KiMo Theatre. That's probably why it almost always wins this category. It got a flattering facelift a couple years back, and now it looks better than ever.
The KiMo boasts a fine roster of performances every month, but even if you end up loathing the show, it probably won't matter much. The building itself is some of the best entertainment in town. Inside and out, the KiMo is a beauty. Step back at the southwest corner of Fifth Street and Central to view the whole masterpiece, then walk around inside to check out some of the amazing details.
The renovated Albuquerque High School complex got a well-deserved second place. Right behind it was Bart Prince's lovely submarine, UFO, interstellar hot dog house on Monte Vista.
Isotopes Park got lots of votes, as did the new Alvarado Transportation Center Downtown. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists Building got one vote. Where the @#$*&%! is that?
Best Architectural Nightmare
Chevy on a Stick
I wouldn't call Chevy on a Stick architecture, but that didn't prevent it from somehow winning this category—if you can call beating out the competition in this category winning, which I'm not sure you can, technically.
Our readers were spot-on in voting big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target the second best architectural nightmare in the city. They handed third place to the Federal Courthouse Downtown. The Wells Fargo building Downtown, which lights up in a sickly green hue at night, nabbed fourth place. It might help if they used a different color. How about a nice red for a change?
The new Rapid Ride bus stops got a couple votes. The “ugly couple at UNM” got a vote, too. Now who could that be? So many possibilities.
Best Art Gallery
Dartmouth Street Gallery
There's an absurd number of excellent galleries in town, but the Dartmouth Street Gallery in Nob Hill barely squeaked into first place this year. DSG's neighbor, the ever popular Mariposa Gallery, was a single vote behind. The Albuquerque Museum and Weems Gallery tied for third.
Competition was stiff this year, though. The Hardwood Art Center, the Coleman Gallery, the Donkey Gallery and SolArts all got plenty of votes. One voter noted that the Harwood has “good snacks,” something to consider next time when deciding which art opening you'd like to patronize.
Other art spaces that got well-deserved votes were [AC]2, the Downtown Contemporary Art Center, Offcenter and New Grounds. The Frontier Restaurant got a couple votes for its spectacularly cool collection of Western kitsch.
Best Cultural Bargain
The Albuquerque Museum often wins this category, and for good reason.
With fantastic permanent and rotating exhibits, our museum is absolutely one of the finest bargains in town. This is especially true now that it's undergone a massive expansion. If you haven't seen the new exhibit space, get off your duff and check it out. It's truly jaw-dropping.
The gorgeous Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre, located Downtown on Central, moved into second place this year by offering economical improv shows to comedy lovers of all ages. A single vote behind was the National Hispanic Cultural Center, which is more attractive than ever as an entertainment destination since it recently opened its new three-theater performance complex.
Cheap entertainment, of course, isn't hard to find in Albuquerque. The Biopark, Old Town, the flea market at Expo New Mexico, the monthly Artscrawl gallery tour, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the Rio Grande Nature Center, the zoo and the South Broadway Cultural Center all got several votes. “Walking in the Bosque” and “breakfast burritos” each got one vote.
Best Place to Learn/Participate in New Mexico Arts and Crafts
Harwood Art Center
The Harwood Art Center pulls ahead of the competition this year based on the broad selection of classes, workshops and demonstrations it hosts throughout the year. Most voters believe that if you want to learn how to do art New Mexico style, then the Harwood is the place to be.
Second prize went to UNM's Continuing Education programming, certainly one of the most economical and enjoyable ways to dip your brush into New Mexican arts and crafts. Offcenter and the National Hispanic Cultural Center tied for third. The newly expanded Albuquerque Museum was close behind in fourth place. (If you haven't seen the museum's new permanent exhibit of New Mexico art, you're missing something pretty cool.)
Explora, with its swanky new digs in Old Town, got several votes. “Kindergarten” got one vote. So did TD's and Home Depot.
Best Live Theater/Performance Troupe
In a surprise twist this year, the prize for Best Live Performance Troupe goes to the Harrison Middle School marching band. Oh, wait. I read that wrong. My mistake. Once again, the prize goes to our dearly beloved Tricklock Company, creators of some of the most enjoyably bizarre experimental theater in the country. You make us proud, Tricklock.
Second place goes to the improv meisters over at Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre for providing a fun, nonalcoholic, all-ages alternative to the typical booze and cruise entertainment options found elsewhere Downtown. Third goes to the sketch comedy team Eat, Drink and Be Larry, which by pure coincidence recently performed a show at Gorilla Tango.
The sexy divas of Bella Donna Burlesque got quite a few votes, as did the Fusion Theatre Company, Working Classroom, the Dolls and Musical Theatre Southwest.
Best Live Theater/Performance Space
It's hard to argue with this one, although the swanky new performance space at the National Hispanic Cultural Center is sure giving Popejoy a run for its money. Still, in terms of acoustics, convenience and programming, UNM's main performance hall is certainly one fine place to see a show.
Second place went to the lovely black box theater across the street, the Vortex Theatre. Third went to the hip new Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre Downtown.
Lots of votes went to Albuquerque's wide range of other fine performance venues, places like the KiMo Theatre, the Hiland Theatre, the Outpost Performance Space, the National Hispanic Cultural Center's performance complex, the Tricklock Performance Space, the Cell Theatre, SolArts and Out ch'Yonda.
Best Visual Artist
Master of portraiture Leo Neufeld takes home the prize for best visual artist this year for his unpretentious down-home paintings, mainly of ordinary people. This year, second place went to Dan Greenwood. A third place tie went to Randy Cooper, Roger Evans and Ted Slampyak. Beyond that, votes came in for almost every artist under the Albuquerque sun.
This category is probably the most reliably predictable in the contest. Every single year since 1902, Tony Hillerman has easily nabbed first place, and Rudolfo Anaya has just as predictably placed second. If you've never heard of either of these two men, we really can't do anything for you. Let's just say a trip to the library might be in order.
Thankfully, Aaron Frale, one of the talented writers in the Eat, Drink and Be Larry comedy team mixed things up this year by getting third place. Several votes also went to Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez. “All Alibi writers” got one vote. Aww, ain't you sweet? Stephen King and Ursula K. LeGuin each got one vote, too, despite the fact that, to the best of our knowledge, they've never lived anywhere near Albuquerque.
Best Dance Company
Keshet almost always wins this category, and they deserve to. They not only put on great performances every year, shows like the ever popular Nutcracker on the Rocks. They also serve this community by giving youngsters and those with disabilities a chance to participate in their productions.
Second place this year went to Edye Allen's rockin' Exposé Dance Company. Third went to the lovely ladies of Bella Donna Burlesque.
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