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Arts & Entertainment: Critics' Picks 

Best of Charlotte 2005

BEST ART GALLERY

(tie) Joie Lassiter Gallery and Elder Art Gallery

Joie Lassiter's gallery gets the nod this year for two reasons. One, she consistently brings to Charlotte high quality, difficult, challenging, uncompromising work, and in so doing refuses to cater to the (often loathsome) tastes of this city. And two, she has survived doing so. Larry Elder shares the honor for his advance guard and standard setting appearance in Southend, the future number one arts district of Charlotte (apologies to NoDa). Elder has discovered strange and wonderful things in his travels, and has the grace and good business sense to share.

Joie Lassiter Gallery, 515 North Tryon Street, Suite 140. 704-373-1464. Elder Art Gallery, 1427 South Boulevard. 704-370-6337.

BEST LOCAL ARTIST

Phil Moody

Moody wins this on the strength of his show eulogizing the work lives of denizens in South Carolina's textile industry. Moody's electrifying, large-scale quilted photos narrate the dissolution of a silent minority who helped clothe an entire country in the 20th century. If you missed the Light Factory show, see Moody's work again at the Dalton Gallery on Main Street in Rock Hill coming up this November.

BEST NEW ARTISTS

Entire Graduating Class Of UNCC Studio Art Department

This is a heads-up for anyone out there clever or crazy enough to start collecting the artwork of the young and the restless. This crew of undergraduates will produce a handful of keepers (i.e., those still making art in their 30s). Brandon Boan, Jason Mullis and Charlotte Zweber are just three names in this class to stick on your cultural antennae.

BEST PUBLIC ART WORK

Light Rail Artwork Selections At Spirit Square

This was an exhibition of work slated for assembly in concert with, or following, Charlotte's light rail construction. I saw the same displays the Mayor saw: maquettes, mockups and displays; the novel, irksome, inventive and outrageous. This work alone is enough to provoke man, woman and child, alien or local, to hazard a ride on the rails. These works help Charlotte morph from layover to destination. For more on "art critic" McCrory's opinion of these works, see "Best Impersonation of a Hick" in the City Life section.

BEST NEWS FOR A FUTURE WORLD-CLASS CHARLOTTE

Arts Funding Considered!

Thumbs up to the once snarling, now mollified boo-hoos on City Council for looking at the feasibility of funding proposed arts projects. Hold your breath until we can drop in on the Council to see what really will take place.

BEST THEATER COMPANY

Actor's Theatre of Charlotte

Actors Theatre had already wrested leadership of the local scene from Charlotte Rep before Rep folded, programming cutting edge works like Take Me Out, The Laramie Project, Bat Boy and Wonder of the World while Rep was serving up Barefoot in the Park and re-re-reruns of A Tuna Christmas. Production values are still a bit seedy sometimes, as you'd expect from a company with a resolutely avant-garde attitude, but this is a company with a clear idea of what they're about. They know their audience to the bone. The fine acting and committed directing shows no signs of devolving into slickness. Check out their 2005-06 season, including Bug, Johnny Guitar, The Goat and All the Great Books (abridged).

650 East Stonewall Street. 704-342-2251.

BEST ACTOR

Brian Robinson

Charlotte has a fine roster of actors and actresses, some of whom can actually stick around much of the year and make a living. Robinson does it the hard way, freelancing with all the best pro companies in town -- and around the state. In town, he's worked for Actor's Theatre, Rep and Children's Theatre over the past year-and-a-half, fronting Take Me Out, Barefoot in the Park and Prince Brat. He's also hovered nearby in recent years, surfacing prominently at Flat Rock and the NC Shakespeare Festival. We sometimes forget the breadth of this triple threat's singing, acting and dancing talents. All of Robinson's gifts are still in their prime.

BEST ACTRESS

Nicia Carla

We mostly see Carla (who also won this award last year) on the mainstage at Children's Theatre, but her comical forays have spiced numerous excellent productions on Charlotte's fringe scene. You'll likely remember Carla if you saw her as The Witch in Children's Theatre's Hansel & Gretel, but she doesn't have to be among the leading players to leave a lasting impression -- as her work in the 2003 BareBones production of The Underpants attests. Panelists for the Metrolina Theatre Awards not only recognized Carla's acting talent as the cannibalistic Witch, they also named her Best Dramatic Director for her work in BareBones' Lonely Planet. And that was her directorial debut!

BEST PERFORMING ARTS GROUP

NC Dance Theatre

Celebrating their 35th anniversary season in 2005-06, North Carolina Dance Theatre is still the fairest of them all. Yes, they've lost their most charismatic dancer with the departure of Uri Sands, our 2004 Critics' Choice for Sexiest Man in Charlotte. But there's plenty budding glamour left in the troupe with Traci Gilchrest, Daniel Wiley and Nicholle Rochelle. And Sands has promised to write -- or better still, to choreograph one of NCDT's Innovative Works in November. Gilchrest finally gets a showcase next February in resident genius Mark Diamond's newest work, Snow White. Traci can bite our apples anytime.

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