Last year, we removed the whole Cultural Arts category with the idea of doing an extended Best of the West that was JUST for arts organizations. Only flaw in the plan: We never ended up doing that. Oops!
Part of the problem is that the arts are so important, so vital to our culture, that figuratively pitting these groups against each other feels a little inappropriate. And yet, we do want to have a chance to highlight some of the amazing people and places bringing their talent to the community, so we decided to do it anyway.
You can look at the winners — they’re obviously all excellent. However, we do also want to highlight some of the other groups we’ve seen producing consistently top-notch art that anyone can enjoy, especially since the winners are pretty GR-centric.
In terms of theaters, I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a show at Barn Theatre that we didn’t love. It might be a bit of a trek, being halfway between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, but it’s well worth a day trip. It’s a professional equity theater, which in layman’s terms means all the actors absolutely know their stuff. If you read our reviews, you’ll know that Farmers Alley Theatre is doing amazing work out that way too, along with Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, Face Off Theatre and all the other Theatre Kalamazoo groups.
If you’re out by the lakeshore, Mason Street Warehouse is another professional equity theatre putting on unique shows with consistent quality. Speaking of the lakeshore, Holland Symphony is well worth a visit too, not to mention dozens of art galleries, large and small.
Really, we could go on forever, but we’d definitely miss someone, so instead be sure to check out our Arts Issue in September, which has a comprehensive listing of all the theater shows, music performances and art exhibits coming to West Michigan.
Finally, let’s take a look at the Visual Artist winners. Coming in first place is Chelsea Michal Garter, a West Michigan painter who creates all kinds of work. Her abstract paintings are colorful and beautiful, as are her semi-trippy animals, while her line drawings are unique enough to cover the entire wall in Squibb Coffee/Rise Authentic Baking’s new location.
Second place goes to Hugo Claudin, owner of Mexicains Sans Frontieres, which also placed for Alternative Art Gallery. Claudin is heavily involved in the community, aspiring to make Grand Rapids a better place. Then we have a rare tie for third, with Erica Lang — who owns Woosah Outfitters and was just featured on our cover — and Reb Roberts, who owned Sanctuary Folk Art until it closed in 2017. He’s created some incredible murals and street art in Grand Rapids, which you’ve almost assuredly seen, even if you didn’t know it belonged to him.
Alternative Art Gallery
1. Lions & Rabbits
1264 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
2. Bend Gallery
3. (Tie) Mexicains Sans Frontieres, Muse GR
1. Grand Rapids Symphony
300 Ottawa Ave. NW #100, Grand Rapids
2. West Michigan Symphony
3. Kalamazoo Symphony
1. LaFontsee Galleries
833 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
2. Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
3. Lions & Rabbits
1. Circle Theatre
1703 Robinson Rd. SE, Grand Rapids
2. Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
3. Dog Story Theater
1. Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids
2. Grand Rapids African American Museum
3. Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
1. Chelsea Michal Garter
2. Hugo Claudin
3. (Tie) Erica Lang, Reb Roberts
Circle Theater. Courtesy Photo