Work on Spree’s “Best of WNY” 2008 issue began the day after our 2007 “Best of” party. That’s when we began tweaking categories and contemplating what should be added and removed. Then, in June, three separate groups of panelists—made up of Spree writers and several in-the-know guests—hashed out their choices. These picks were then combined with our reader poll results to come up with the winners included here. Most quotes came from the panelists, while the “none of the above” sidebars were written by Spree writers. Now that you know how we got here, take a look, and see if you agree with the results.

By Spree writers and panelists Bruce Adams, William C. Altreuter, Mike Andrzejewski, Alan Bedenko, Catherine Berlin, Mark Criden, Bruce Eaton, Jana Eisenberg, Jessica Keltz, Elizabeth Licata, Vicki G. Marshall, Darwin McPherson, Gerald Mead, Barry A. Muskat, Nancy J. Parisi, Terri Parsell Hilmey, Kevin Purdy, Christopher Schobert, Margaret M. Toohey, and Jennifer Wutz-Lopes; Spree writers Ron Ehmke, Donna Evans-Deyermond, Ronald Montesano, Maria Scrivani, Joe Sweeney, and Susan Tanner; participants in the readers poll; and outside panelists Jade Chen, Rick Criden, Ellen Mogavero, Jane Mogavero, and Bob Syracuse. Photos in this section include images by kc kratt, Jim Bush, Spree staff, and promotional images from the magazine archives.


ARTS / CULTURE

Exhibition
Beyond/In WNY
“How can any single show ever compete against the extravaganza that is Beyond/In? It seemed more scattered than the previous edition, but it was still an amazing display of the wealth of great artists we have in town.”

Large gallery
Albright-Knox
1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo,
882-8700, www.albrightknox.org

“They continue to make bold moves and take chances. Friday evenings at the AKAG have become a local cultural phenomenon, attracting diverse crowds every week and providing them with a new experience each time.”

Small gallery
Hallwalls
341 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, 854-1694, www.hallwalls.org
“It’s garnered a national reputation.”
“Hallwalls consistently mounts ambitious and intelligent world class shows. The past year was particularly strong. Every medium imaginable has been represented, from painting to installation to video.”

ART education programming
CEPA
617 Main Street, Buffalo, 856-2717, www.cepagallery.org
“CEPA has a regular schedule of courses and a history of working with area schools.”

Arts administrator
Louis Grachos
“The man has guts, bringing to Buffalo the kind of innovative exhibitions that we haven’t seen at the AKAG in decades. There’s something for everyone. Grachos has demonstrated the style of vision and leadership WNY needs more of.”

Most fun art gallery
Burchfield-Penney
1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, www.burchfieldpenney.org
“The final events in their old space were BPAC at its best—crowded and friendly.”

Museum (non-art)
Karpeles
453 Porter Avenue/220 North Street, Buffalo, 886-3656, www.rain.org/~karpeles
“We’re the only city that has two of these manuscript museums. They’re a hidden treasure.”

Theater company
Irish Classical
625 Main Street, Buffalo, 853-ICTC, www.irishclassicaltheatre.com
“ICTC’s season was outstanding with deep, profound dramas and dynamic, creative comedies. The range of their productions, along with the quality of their execution, illustrate what good theater is really all about.”

Actor
John Fredo
“This was an extraordinary year for Fredo. His performances in Sweeney Todd, A Picasso, and A Rainbow Journey demonstrated his power and versatility.”

Actress
Anne Roaldi
“Kindertransport proved that this young lady is a force to be reckoned with. She convincingly played an emotionally vulnerable nine-year-old as she develops to a sixteen-year-old, for whom English is not her native language.”

Director
Fortunato Pezzimenti
“With The Servant of Two Masters and Charley’s Aunt, the guiding hand of a good director was especially necessary for a house like the Andrews Theatre. The fact that the action was well-executed fun without being reduced to sheer slapstick is a credit to Pezzimenti’s thoughtful choices.”

None of the above... best artist
Even when diced into subcategories like “best painter,” artistic prowess defies easy measurement and ranking. How do you weigh figurative painting against abstraction, or size up minimalism next to graphic illustration? It’s one thing to compare butcher shops—you pretty much know a good steak when you see one—but what overarching criteria encompass kitschy anime characters, drippy expressionism, and esoteric landscapes?

An excellent local painter I know was once nominated in a “best-of” public opinion poll for another publication, only to lose to a tattoo artist. This makes sense since great art always looks better on someone’s ass. Once, following a highly visible exhibition, I was nominated for “best painter” in the same publication. I lost to my friend A. J. Fries. Fair enough, A. J. is an outstanding artist, but the following year I was not even nominated. How could I be among the elite one year, and vanquished the next? Simple: in the wake of my defeat, I had lost the “eye of the tiger” (mentally cue Rocky theme here). If only art was as simple as boxers squaring off for the title. Western New York artists with national reputations never make area “best-of” lists. My advice to them is to exhibit more in local bars, which seems to be a key to success. Oh, and join a band.

If there was a “best” local artist, he (or she) would be a mark for every would-be Van Gogh with a steady sketching hand and portable easel who drifts into town looking to make a name. I can see it now: “They say you’re the best,” an upstart watercolorist calls out to the seasoned encaustic painter. “This town isn’t big enough for the both of us.” The two study each other through squinted eyes under the noon sun, holding their thumbs up the way artists do to judge perspective. The young challenger fingers his brushes nervously. The weathered veteran is steady; a hint of weariness crosses his face, having defended his reputation too many times before. He knows one day he won’t be “the best.” Is it today? There’s a faint rustle of art smocks in the dusty breeze, and someone shouts, “Draw.”
—Bruce Adams



Experimental act
The Real Dream Cabaret
“Not what you’d expect, but what you’d hope for.”


Locally produced play, 2007
Jewish Repertory Theatre, Kindertransport
“Hands down, one of the finest productions of the year. The perfect cast and a wonderful set transported the audience to an intriguing time with a tale that captivatingly unfolded.”


Solo musician
Noa Bursie
“Bursie has a strong point-of-view and a simple, direct style, and has built up a solid local fanbase.”

ROCK Band
Here Come the Comets
“The songs are great, and the musicianship is strong.
There is a lot of underground support for them.”

Local album
Here Come the Comets,
Falling Anvils

“Ten great rock songs, and a confident, refreshing sensibility.”

Instrumentalist
Mir Ali
“He’s a serious guitarist.”

Rock club
Town Ballroom
681 Main Street, Buffalo, 852-3900, www.townballroom.com
“Great acoustics, comfortable space, reliable lineup of acts.”


Place to hear jazz
Albright-Knox
1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, 882-8700, www.albrightknox.org
“This innovative series matches the caliber of the internationally renowned art on the walls outside the auditorium where the series is held each year.”

Outdoor music series
Everything in Artpark’s
summer music programming

450 South 4th Street, Lewiston, 754-4375, www.artpark.net
“You’ve got to vote with your petrol, and people are—
it’s a destination.”

Recent WNY-related book
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House: Architecture as Portraiture
by Jack Quinan

“It’s a real accomplishment. Quinan’s lifelong scholarship dedicated to Wright is evident on every page.”

MOST Interesting artist … under 30
Katie Sehr
“2007 was a banner year for this gifted young artist known for her meticulous crystal-like drawings. In addition to numerous exhibitions and a drawing award from the Kenan Center, her work was purchased for the Albright-Knox’s permanent collection.”

MOST Interesting artist … Over 50
Bruce Adams
“His January 2007 solo exhibition at the Anderson Gallery was an important mid-career retrospective. His work was acquired by the AKAG in 2007 as well.”

Patron of the arts
Stan Lipsey
“Lipsey was one of the most powerful forces for the Martin House restoration.”



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