Best of Columbia 2014: Arts & Culture

By Free Times
Tuesday, August 12, 2014 |
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  • South Carolina State Fair wins Best Annual Event or Festival. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Annual Event or Festival
    South Carolina State Fair
    Runner-up: Columbia’s Greek Festival

    Maybe it’s the continually improving Pepsi Grandstand lineup. (The Band Perry last year? Shovels & Rope this year? Good stuff.) Maybe it’s the rides. (That Crazy Mouse is cool, man.) Maybe it’s the never-ending array of gastronomical delights — fried Snickers and fried corn dogs and fried Coca-Cola and fried everything. No, yeah, it’s definitely the fair food.

    Best Art Gallery
    701 Center for Contemporary Art
    Runner-up: City Art
    The niche served by the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is a relatively small one, but it’s also exceedingly important. The gallery hosts just what its name suggests: contemporary, cutting-edge exhibitions by local, regional, national and even international artists.

    Best Local or Regional Museum
    South Carolina State Museum
    Runner-up: Columbia Museum of Art

    This week, the State Museum opens its amazing new observatory and astronomy wing, not to mention its 4-D theater. And in the past year, it’s brought dinosaurs and Egyptian history to life here in the Midlands. Pretty cool.


    Columbia City Ballet wins Best Dance Company.

    Best Dance Company
    Columbia City Ballet
    Runner-up: Southern Strutt

    Can the phrase “go big or go home” be applied to dance companies? We say it can be — because it basically encapsulates the philosophy of the Columbia City Ballet. Whether it’s the annual productions of Dracula and The Nutcracker or an entirely new undertaking, the City Ballet consistently goes all out in its staging and costuming. Sure, the dancers can dance — but when you see the City Ballet, you’ll see a show.

    Best Dance Studio or School
    Columbia Ballet School
    Runner-up: Columbia Conservatory of Dance

    If you hang around Columbia long enough, you start to learn that the city is full of hidden and surprising strengths. One such strong suit is its dance community, which boasts an impressive array of schools. The Columbia Ballet School, founded by Anita Ashley, boasts an impressive faculty that teaches a strong ballet curriculum that can also lead to jazz, tap, contemporary and more.


    Blue Sky, best known for his murals (such as Tunnelvision, above), is Best Visual Artist. file photo

    Best Visual Artist
    Blue Sky
    Runner-up: Sean McGuinness (“That Godzilla Guy”)

    Blue Sky wants you to adopt cats. And although his Adopt Me Now mural is no longer next to the Richland Library (it was painted over), you can still purchase prints online. He received the Order of the Palmetto for his contributions to the Columbia art scene in 2001.


    Trustus Theatre is Best Local Theater Company. (Pictured: Ragtime with Terrance Henderson and Avery Bateman.) Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

    Best Local Theater Company
    Trustus Theatre
    Runner-up: Town Theatre

    Trustus is the most fun, smart theater company around. Who else would tackle shows as diverse as Ragtime — an ambitious, Tony award-winning musical based on the E.L. Doctorow book of the same name, with a cast of 32, highlighting issues of race, class and sex in turn-of-the-century America — and Evil Dead: The Musical, in which audience members are squirted with large quantities of fake blood?


    Town Theatre’s Les Miserables wins Best Local Theater Production.

    Best Local Theater Production
    Les Miserables (Town Theatre)
    Runner-up: Shrek the Musical (Town Theatre)

    This 19th-century French novel has been adapted into films, plays, musicals and more. There’s no need to travel to Broadway, though, when you can observe the struggles of convict Jean Valjean right here in Columbia.

    Best Movie Theater
    Columbiana Grande
    Runner-up: Nickelodeon

    With 14 stadium screens, the Columbiana Grande certainly is big, reeling in most every mainstream flick as soon as it comes out. And the location doesn’t hurt — Columbiana Station is flush with popular bars and restaurants like Wild Wing Cafe and the British Bulldog Pub making it easy to grab a bite before or after the show.

    Which categories did the readers get right? Which ones did they blow? Which categories should go away — and which ones are missing? Let us know what you think: Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

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