Best Of 2005

Best of SA 2005 And the winners are...
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Winners, losers, and very strange answers

This year's model: Bambi the chihuahua embodies San Antonio and Best of 2005. From public parks to front yards to their owners' arms, chihuahuas are everywhere. If you walk too closely to them, you'll find these small but mighty dogs are fiesty, loud, and unpredictable - and they might even bite your ankles - just like the Current.

Welcome to the Best of San Antonio, the issue in which our readers and Current staff determine the superlative aspects of living in the Alamo City.

For the first time in several years, the Current did not disqualify chains from the competition in order to divine a truer picture of voters' tastes. Well, I guess we have to handle the truth: Pizza Hut won Best Pizza and Olive Garden Best Italian instead of homegrown favorites such as Florio's and Ciao. Welcome to the mall culture, the abyss that swallows originality.

Despite our occasional despondency at the results, the best part of the Best of is reading the weird answers offered by our readers. Some responses were clearly wink-wink jokes; others were unintentionally unironic. For example, although we didn't disqualify chain stores, we had hoped people voting for SA's Best Band would weight the city's finest musical offerings, not AC/DC (Australia), Aerosmith (Boston), Eric Clapton (England), U2 (Ireland), or Chicago, who are from ...

Best of San Antonio 2005

Flapjacks to chicken scratch

Turning our face to the dawn

San Antonio grows its own

Media mediocrity

People & Politics
Everyday people

Don't lose your place
McDonald's could be the Best Restaurant To Take a Date if you're 12, but we're intrigued at the idea of a plate of the Best Gorditas at Resurrection of the Lord Church. Yet, it's a fact that, contrary to one voter's opinion, Costco doesn't have the Best Pizza, nor does Stop & Go have the Best Coffee. That is unless you have an iron gut, no sense of smell, and a buddless tongue.

Our prurient interests were aroused by a vote for Best Movie Theater: Stalls 3 & 5 at the Apollo. Please, tell us more! Was it the men's or women's bathroom?

Arnold Schwarzenagger's steroid-chiseled face is surely not the freshest in politics, and we have to question whether the most effective activist is the 35-year-old the Weather Underground. While we agree with their outrage and sense of injustice toward the U.S. government, bombs make us nervous.

How could we forget fashion as Best Unchampioned Cause, since there is absolutely no mention of fashion, haute couture, or clothing in magazines, television, or newspapers?

It appears the anti-Leticia Van De Putte contingent, all, uh, one of them, thinks anything the state senator proposes is the Best Example of Taxpayer Waste. But her proposals had stiff competition from the apparent money pit of people watering plants downtown and girls collecting rent in bikinis. Or maybe it was girls watering plants downtown and people collecting rent in bikinis.

And, last but not least, the Best Place to Get a Tattoo is apparently on your ball sac (ouch!) or in prison, which could not be as amazing as getting a tattoo on your ball sac while in prison.

Enough said. Enjoy the results.

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Food    Arts    Music    Media    People & Politics    Places

From Buttercup to Flaco, the music scene survives

Buttercup exemplified the best aspects of SA music over the last year. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

San Antonio's music scene has spent so many years in Austin's shadow that even locals tend to forget its legacy. Consider it this way: There are places that grow great musicians, and places that nurture great musicians. Austin unquestionably fits in the latter category, but San Antonio can rightfully claim the former. Musicians move to Austin because they know they'll find receptive audiences, but how many of Austin's greats grew up there? Austin claims Alejandro Escovedo, but he was born in SA, and didn't move to Austin until he was well into his 30s, by which point, his musical aesthetic was well established. Austin throws a party every year for Doug Sahm, but his Tex-Mex synthesis grew out of his childhood on San Anto's East Side. Austin considers the Butthole Surfers its major contribution to '80s punk, but the band formed in SA at Trinity University. And we all know about Flaco Jimenez.

Best of SA 2005

Readers' picks - Best Music
Click here to see our readers' choices
Few products of this city demonstrate the unaffected grace of contemporary San Antonio music better than this year's choice for Best Instrumentalist: Joe Reyes. If it occasionally feels like Reyes plays in half the bands in town, it's only because this guitar virtuoso exerts such a powerful influence on everything that his plectrum touches. It's hard to decide what's more impressive, his effortless mastery of the instrument or the range of his stylistic fluency.

To many old fans, Reyes remains the flamenco player who made six albums with Sergio Lara, and earned a Grammy nomination for the 2000 release, World Jazz. Others know him for his work with the roots-rock band the Swindles. Some music aficionados surely recognize his name from the 2001 Freddy Fender album of traditional tunes, La Música de Baldemar Huerta, which Reyes helped to produce, earning him a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. And the local art crowd most strongly associates him with Buttercup and their spontaneous, theme-driven, Grackle Mundy happenings.

Reyes has managed to navigate these disparate courses because of his restless musical curiosity and commitment to creative growth. Many musicians with his jazz pedigree might have ignored the virtues of Buttercup or the Swindles, but for all his technical skill, Reyes never seems obsessed with technique. He understands the value of a well-crafted pop song as well as fiery jazz improvisations, and he knows what to bring to both.

Eric Geyer (right) introduces musician Danny Conner during open mike night at Sam's Burger Joint. Geyer hosts the open mic night every Wednesday at Sam's. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

His work with Buttercup never fails to amaze. Singer/guitarist Erik Sanden credits Reyes with helping that band make the leap from raw concept to fully realized art-pop collective. Whether the song calls for gravity-defying slide guitar ("John Glenn"), chiming delicacy ("Confirmation"), or Velvet Underground-inspired ferocity ("Downslide"), Reyes adds the essential icing. He never overplays, always looking to add texture that will call attention to the song, rather than to his playing.

As Reyes proved at Buttercup's recent SXSW showcase, his instrumental prowess is not limited to full-sized, six-string instruments, and also extends to miniature four-stringed axes. For "Johnny Appleseed," which Sanden sardonically called "our most rocking song," Reyes pulled out a ukulele and very nearly made Sanden's introduction accurate.

The SXSW show demonstrated why Buttercup is our choice for Best Rock Band. They're artsy but reliably self-deprecating; rocking but utterly devoid of chest-thumping machismo; and they view pop music as a broad canvas to be splashed with a wild mix of colors. From the raucous musical tourism of "In Spain" to the title song's ambivalent tale of being hounded by a beautiful stalker, their Sick Yellow Flower was the best local CD released over the last year.

Like Buttercup, Spettro - our choice for Best DJ - has done much to enhance awareness of this city's musical community. It's hardly a surprise, given his choice of genres.

DJ Spettro (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

The best house DJs are more than mere turntablists. By nature and necessity, they're ambassadors driven to spread the gospel of a frequently maligned and misunderstood form of dance music, one which commonly irritates dedicated hip-hop heads.

Spettro, a Dallas transplant born Eddie Scott, is the best kind of house ambassador. A teenage tennis phenom drawn to Big D's mid-'90s warehouse rave scene, Spettro was a dancer before he ever thought of manning the wheels of steel. As he explained last year in an interview with the Current, those gatherings amounted to a dance-floor Rainbow Coalition: "You had punkers there, hippies, all kinds of people. I was like, 'This is what I want to do.'"

Spettro came to San Antonio's St. Mary's University on an athletic scholarship, but his tennis career ended after he was kicked in the leg during a fight. Yet the setback encouraged him to buy his own set of turntables.

Even now, Spettro rapturously dances while working the turntables, often losing himself in the four-to-the-bar thump of house's signature bass-drum beat. His commitment to house has survived countless brushes with narrow-minded club denizens who demand hip-hop or dance-pop and show little patience for what they perceive to be fringe music. Spettro's first local gig, for a college party on the patio of Fatso's, resulted in what he recalls as a "really miserable experience," with irate dancers complaining about his choice of music. But even as Spettro has occasionally been forced to battle the tastes of his own adopted city, he's become a vaunted producer-for-hire and one of the most internationally respected DJs in house's close-knit family of believers.

"Yo... Hey man, you know where I can get me a '51 Tele, with a Parsons/White B-Bender? I gotta get that Byrds and Buckaroo thing workin' man."

Hunkering down in his Pro Tools-based home studio for up to 80 hours a week, he's concocted music for indie labels such as Big Chief, Amenti, and Brique Rouge, and released collections such as Southern Boy and Alamo Funk EP.

In a city better known for cultivating hip-hop DJs (Jester, Klassen), Spettro is a stylistic anomaly, but it wouldn't be accurate to say that he's unloved in his own town. His gigs at The Davenport demonstrate that this ambassador of house does some of his most valuable work at home.

The same can be said for Eric Geyer, who hosts our choice for Best Open Mic. Every Wednesday at Sam's Burger Joint, Geyer provides a supportive environment for aspiring singer-songwriters. For years, he hosted Tuesday nights at the N. St. Mary's Brewing Company, until a fire decimated that local landmark. Two months later, he found a new home at Sam's, and the union has been a perfect fit. Geyer is a playwright and actor as well as a songwriter, and you can sense his fondness for the well-turned phrase at each of his open-mic nights. Best of all, he's a rare example of a former Austin musician who relocated to San Antonio.

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Pretty pictures and funny bones

Vigorous Vacation, Vibrant Health
by Andrew McGown

Mark Vickery and Joan Bailey discuss a painting in the Blue Star Contemporary Art Space. Blue Star and surrounding galleries drew typically large crowds for the April First Friday event. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

A couple of years ago, a good friend told me that an acquaintance of his was despondent over his impending move to San Antonio. He had visited a reading chat room in which he discovered that the most popular book among Alamo City women was one of the Harry Potter series. "It's a children's book!" my friend cried in not-so-mock outrage.

Unfortunately, we in the Best of San Antonio department can't offer the culturally oriented lovelorn much hope. In the Best Book category there were two winners: one a self-published self-help book, the other a phallic, self-involved poetry chapbook published in 2003. The results here bear out the 2004 Cultural Collaborative-sponsored survey that found literary events to be the least-attended cultural happenings in town. We took solace in the vote for a new entry from Maverick Publishing, The Spanish Acequias of San Antonio by I. Waynne Cox. Given the preponderance of "self" in the rest of the list, we were a little suspicious of Waynne's preceding "I." but the book looks not only legit, but well-researched and handsomely designed. Alas, it won't be made into a movie or chanted on stage at an open mic night anytime soon so you'll have to actually read the damn thing.

The winners of this year's Best Of poll were:

Vigorous Vacation, Vibrant Health by Andrew McGown, published through authorHOUSE, in which the Texas-born writer helps readers build a new life around Lake Tahoe. As if you can't hike and bike safely around San Antonio!

Exploits of a Sun Poet by Rod Stryker, published by Pecan Grove Press in 2003. "Once rested / after cleaning the / sticky liquid / off / Freedom's face / I shrug / the boulders back on my / shoulders ... "

So ... Freedom doesn't swallow? EW

Readers' Picks
Best Arts

1. Vigorous Vacation, Vibrant Health by Andrew McGown
Exploits of a Sun Poet by Rod Stryker (tie)

1. Blue Star
2. First Friday
3. Starving Artist show

1. Louis Lubbering
2. Paul Lubbering
3. Donna King

1. Comedia A Go-Go
2. Brothers of the Flame
3. Blue Star

1. Paula Jo Peterson in Shirley Valentine
2. Karl Lubbering
3. Tim Lapping

1. The Witte: inc. World of Water, Grossology, Dinosaurs
2. McNay: inc. Vincent's Stations, Picasso to Dali, 50th Anniversary

1. Blue Star Arts & Eats
2. Esperanza Peace Market
3. Los Compadres Artisanos

1. Texas Folklife Festival
2. Fiesta
3. Taste of New Orleans

1. Comedia A Go-Go
2. Brothers of the Flame
3. Cornyation

1. Driving Miss Daisy at Stoli
2. Cats at Majestic
3. Chicago and Comedia A Go-Go (tie)

1. San Antonio Underground Film Festival
2. UTSA Foreign Film Symposium

1. Alamo Drafthouse
2. Bijou
3. AMC Huebner Oaks

Starving Artists Show

A collector who owns paintings by local artists James Smolleck, Charles Field, and Sky Patterson, likes to describe San Antonio as "the bargain basement for art," and he means it as a compliment. UTSA graduate student Julie Shipp, who's been running a tighter ship than usual at the UTSA Satellite Space, seconds that emotion when she tells potential buyers that the same work would cost them as much as three times more in Dallas. Even if your wallet is wafer thin, you can afford to start an art collection here, if you only know where to look. Our readers are on to this, too. They

The Lubbering family art dynasty achieved critical mass in this year's Readers' Picks. Father and son Louis, left, and Paul, right, took top honors in the Best Teacher category. The paterfamilias teaches at Incarnate Word College, while Paul holds forth at the San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity. Son Karl, top, who has an ongoing exhibition at the Cove, was the public's pick for Best One-Person Show. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

snagged some low-hanging fruit with the annual Starving Artists Show, which favors figurative, impressionist, and craft work, held the first full weekend of April at the Little Church in La Villita. But if contemporary art is what you seek, readers and critics recommend Blue Star and First Friday (although the same galleries you struggle to shoulder through that evening will be open and crowd-free the following day). Within the complex, you can troll REM Gallery, Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, Joan Grona, UTSA's Satellite Space, Cactus Bra, Three Walls, San Angel Folk Art, and a handful of other small galleries for work ranging from $25 to $10,000. EW

The Lubberings

"They call him the Monet of Texas!" Paul Lubbering's wife shouted in the background as we talked by phone about the crowning of the Lubbering Family Art Dynasty. No less than four family members were mentioned in this year's Best Of ballots, and three of them placed in two different categories. First place went to Louis, the patriarch. "Dad is the one that started it," says Paul. "His father bought him a painting kit because he kept doing graffiti everywhere." The elder Lubbering studied at Trinity University after the Vietnam war and teaches at Incarnate Word High School, where Paul was his student. "Ever since I was a kid, I was like, Can you make a living at this?"

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Brothers of the Flame, whose New Age meets hip-hop floor show is still popular among the masses, who placed them among Best Performance and Best Multi-Artist Show. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Apparently so. The Lubberings operate a gallery on Myrtle Street next to San Antonio College and in addition to school duties - Paul is on staff at the charter San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity - on the weekends they offer small-group classes in painting, drawing, and art history (223-6977 to register). All hail the Land(scape) Lubberings!!

Another student teacher, Donna King, who has been at Ed White Middle School for 11 years, took third place, which is almost as good as a raise, right? EW

Comedia a Go-Go (?!)

Like a test question that stumped too many students, the category Best Multi-Artist Show had to be tossed because no one who voted seemed to understand the instructions. Even though there were also Theater and Performance categories, Comedia A Go-Go, a comedy troupe, and Brothers of the Flame, fire-throwing exhibitionists, won this award. I'm a little surprised that the City Council didn't at least make honorable mention. After all, they throw shit and spark mirth weekly. We didn't want to pull a United Nations on you, but you leave us no choice. Here are candidates an enlightened democracy might have selected:

Vincent Valdez' one-man show at the McNay, Stations, was popular with critics and readers alike and helped McNay win second place for Best Exhibition. Voters also mentioned the 50th Anniversary shows and Picasso to Dalí as reasons they love the museum. (courtesy photo)

Mexican Report at Blue Star Center for Contemporary Art and the Instituto de México. An independently curated exhibition of contemporary work by more than 40 Mexican artists, Mexican Report was filled with exciting sculpture and multimedia pieces, although the painting and photography on the whole were weak. May it forever sever our sentimental love affair with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's Mexico.

H2O: Considering the Hydrosphere at Southwest School of Art & Craft. Despite the gushy theme and overcrowding on the dance floor, like prom night the whole exceeded the sum of its parts and many a star glittered among the also-cames: Anne Wallace, Chris Sauter, Riley Robinson, Rick Hunter, and Jayne Lawrence, to name a few.

OIL at Triangle Project Space. Luz Maria Sanchez curated this smart show featuring painting, sculpture, video installations, and mixed-media work by six Mexican artists that collectively explored the many forms and meaning of this double-edged resource.

Another honorable mention should go to sculptor Ken Little, who last August hosted a two-man show for fellow UTSA instructors Ricky Armendariz and Richard Martinez (also a juror's choice at the 2005 Texas Biennial) at his old Rrose Amarillo Gallery and studio space on San Fernando. Other artists who share the building, including Jesse Amado and Alex Lopez, held an open studio night, too, and Little's band played on the porch. It was an all-around great evening for art. EW

The Witte came in first for small-hand-friendly pleasers such as Grossology and Dinosaurs and the under-construction World of Water installation that will incorporate the museum's setting on a bend of the San Antonio River. (courtesy photo)

Karl Lubbering

In this category there seemed be to more confusion, this time over the terms "one," "person," and "show." But after we sorted through the detritus that confusion left in its wake (Paula Jo Peterson, an actress, received the most votes for her appearance in Shirley Valentine, and Deepak Chopra, Dr. Phil, and "bagpipe guy downtown" each received as many votes as Hills Snyder, the sculptor Catherine Lee, and Vincent Valdez), Karl James Lubbering - who last year was the readers' pick for Best Struggling Artist - emerged victorious. The musician has an on-going show in the Cove's bar `see related story, page 20`, and was also featured at the New Braunfels Museum of Art and Music (we prefer his contemporary pottery pieces, which can be seen at this link). Second place went to Tim Lapping, perhaps for his photography exhibit, Los Músicos.

There were enough outstanding one-person shows last year that we think readers must have blown a fuse when they came to that portion of the ballot, like walking into a video store on Friday evening and being unable to think of a single movie to rent. A handful of highlights include Valdez' Stations at the McNay, Lee at the Southwest School of Art & Craft, Julie Speed at Blue Star, and Nate Cassie at Parchman Stremmel. EW

Grossology at the Witte

The Alamo Drafthouse lures fans of cinema and strong spirits to its Southwest location with a bright marquee. Current readers voted the Drafthouse Best Movie Theater, and it wins high marks from the critics for a cold, expansive beer selection, delicious pizzas and burgers, and a seamless eating/viewing experience. Plus we love the special screening events such as this week's pairing of the old Amityville Horror with its remake. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

There were no clear winners in the exhibition category, but when we aggregated by institution, two stars emerged: The Witte Museum and the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum. Witte? Gross, we say! The popular Grossology exhibit was one of the better "hands-on," kid-friendly touring shows the Witte runs like sewage through their downstairs gallery, but the overall poor quality of the interactive components has become the talk of the town (or at least one lengthy conversation at Liberty Bar). The H-E-B Treehouse, on the other hand, is still a fine vantage point from which to watch the kids play with the water sluice below and admire the improvements to Brackenridge Park.

The McNay has been celebrating its 50th year of existence in high style, much to the city's benefit. From Vincent Valdez' beautiful drawing show, Stations to the retrospective of underappreciated modern sculptor Richard Stankiewicz to the current Taisho Chic exhibit, the McNay continues to remind us how art, and modernism in particular, changes personal lives and society at large. EW

Blue Star's Arts & Eats

Our voters may be sketchy on art, but they do know how to party in the service of art. Blue Star's Arts & Eats, featuring a solid acre of Zagat-worthy restaurants dueling for prizes, is bigger than the Beatles, or at least Duran Duran. The fall event raises around $40,000 for the non-profit contemporary art center.

(Photo by Laura McKenzie)

You can protest the commercialization of the holidays by staying in during the busiest shopping day of the year, post-Thanksgiving Friday. Or you can shop with justice and equality in mind at the annual Esperanza Peace Market bazaar, held the weekend following turkey day. One-of-a-kind handmade gifts and artisanal crafts abound, with more than 90 vendors participating in last year's event. The catch: The Peace Market isn't technically a fundraiser for an organization, but it does put money directly in the pockets of working artists.

One of our favorite fundraising events will take place April 16 and 17, during Fiesta. The Southwest School of Art & Craft's Fiesta Arts Fair crams 120 artists and craftspeople, a half-dozen bands, food, and a children's art garden onto the shaded historic grounds of the school's downtown campus. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children age 5-12, but proceeds benefit the non-profit community art school, and the entry fee buys hours of languid browsing among booths vending everything from furniture to painting to jewelry. EW

Texas Folklife Festival

So you like to party, eh? Well, what do you require? Perhaps you like a cornucopia of international delights, from Celtic flutes to slimy sauerkraut. Stuff your intercontinental appetite, then, at the Texas Folklife Festival. Or maybe your rocks don't really roll until a drunken stranger devours your face and pleads NIOSA. Don't be coy; pucker up. Oh? You love food? Try The Taste of New Orleans, you insatiable beast, and suck up steaming pits of mudbugs. Maybe you'll even get your jaws around a giant boiled rodent. You animal. Enjoy. BC

The mega-multicultural Texas Folklife Festival took the readers' prize for Best Cultural Festival. The four-day event, which will mark its 34th year June 9-12 on the grounds of the Institutue of Texan Cultures, celebrates the many nationalities and ethnic groups that made modern-day Texas with food booths, music, dancing, and interactive events suitable for all ages. (Courtesy of the Institute of Texan Culture)


All three winners in this category are brand names for a lifestyle. Cornyation (, irreverent, glam, and campy, is an official Fiesta event that makes fun of Fiesta. You could check it out on the Empire Theatre's stage April 20-22, but this fundraiser - which last year gave away $55,000 to local charities such as the San Antonio AIDS Foundation - sells out early. Comedia A Go-Go (, irreverent and scatological, is a young local sketch comedy group that proudly parades its "Uncensored!" status the third Thursday of every month at Sam's Burger Joint, and at midnight on Fridays at the River Center Comedy Club. Brothers of the Flame (, favorites on the local goth and rave scenes, also performs at Sam's (on Monday nights) and mixes New Age-y retro-reverence with a hip-hop sensibility. LD


Current readers proved themselves less-than-current by nominating not one but three warhorses written in the 1980s, including the gazillionth national tour of Cats. Way to go, Current readers, for supporting new and innovative work in the theater. Sheesh. Anyhow, there were at least three more productions last year deserving of critical kudos: Angels in America at the San Pedro Playhouse, which raised the bar for challenging new work; The Clearing at the Vexler Theater, which featured impeccable acting and a timeless message; and Sylvia at the Magik Theater, a clever adult-oriented comedy that boasted more four-letter words than will likely be heard at the Magik again. "Memory / All alone in the moonlight ... " TJ

Mojodos screened at this year's Underground Film Festival, the readers' top pick, noted Steve Kellman says, "for it's range of self-indulgent tripe and occasional brilliance." (courtesy photo)

Underground Film Festival

Festival films are fungible; entries in the Jewish Film Festival also showed up in the UTSA Europe in Transition series and Esperanza's CineMujer festival. But the Underground Film - formerly known as the Golden Shower - Festival is unique, for its range of self-indulgent tripe and occasional brilliance. Before it vanished into hiatus, the Guadalupe's CineFestival, a cornucopia of 90 Latino productions, was a major event on the national calendar. Locals are left with smaller series scattered throughout the year: Jewish, Asian, African American, European, underground, women's, short. With its sophisticated mix of foreign, independent, animated, and nonfiction features, the Bijou Theater is a festival every week. SGK

Alamo Drafthouse

Visit the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and binge in the dark where no can call you a pig. But keep in mind: You can still hear Paul Giamatti scream, "I'm a smudge of excrement on a piece of toilet paper surging out to sea!" at the Bijou. Add a depressingly overpriced side of spinach dip and invent your own self-deprecating side-splitter. Or forgo food altogether and make for AMC Huebner Oaks with those super-comfy seats. Then again, you could just rent a movie and pop Hot Tamales like happy pills. Any way, you win. BC


BC: Brian Chasnoff
LD: Laurie Dietrich
TJ: Thomas Jenkins
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
EW: Elaine Wolff

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Food    Arts    Music    Media    People & Politics    Places

'Best of' voters wallow in 'Memory,' while visionaries build the cultural districts of tomorrow

Current readers voted family members Louis and Paul Lubbering Best Teacher, but Eduardo Rodriguez ranks high among our critics. The associate professor in visual arts at San Antonio College earned a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to teach at SAC where he completed a portion of his undergraduate studies. Rodriguez' abstract paintings, which combine elements of modernism and minimalism, can be seen at Joan Grona Gallery. (Photo by Alicia Wagner Calzada)

"I remember the time I knew what happiness was / Let the memory live again ... "

Ah, San Antonio, a city that often seems frozen in time. Like during Best of San Antonio. Elsewhere the year is 2005, but in SA, pastoral scenes of bluebonnets still win the hearts of many a fair collector and new book titles be damned. In a year in which local publisher WINGS celebrated its 10th anniversary and newly reborn Trinity University Press released its first slate of titles, we clutched 2003's Caramelo to our breast when we weren't reading self-published self-help titles.

Artpace, Linda Pace's innovative artist residency program, also turned 10 this year, as Pace herself celebrates 60. But our voters eschewed contemporary art, voting for talented practitioners of impressionism and other genteel styles. The Blue Star galleries might take a cue from some of our get-out-the-vote savvy winners (yes, we mean you, Comedia A Go-Go) and hand out forms to those SRO crowds at First Friday.

Best of SA 2005

Readers' picks - Best Arts
Click here to see our readers' choices
The Theater and Peformance results were more encouraging, as the productions that won actually were produced here in the preceding 12 months. Nonetheless, we displayed our penchant for sitcom punchlines by voting for Cats, that old Andrew Lloyd Weber fur ball that the Great White Way coughed up on the Midwest a few years back. Then again, the lyrics caterwauled by the tattered grand dame Grizabella, "Burnt out ends of smoky days / The stale cold smell of morning ... " seem particularly apt for our town during Fiesta, which, in case a miracle cure has just rescued you from a persistent vegetative state, begins next week.

Developer James Lifshutz, who is expanding the Blue Star Arts Complex and the Blue Star Silos, wins kudos for building on his father's tradition of combining art and business in downtown mixed-use properties. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

"Memory / All alone in the moonlight / I can smile at the old days / I was beautiful then ... "

In addition to some snappy, and occasionally snarky, prose to garland our readers' choices, the Current's arts staff presents a handful of profiles of individuals from whom, based on recent performance, we expect great things in the near future. As we do of you, dear reader, who is commanded to pick up a pen in 2006 and VOTE!

"Daylight / See the dew on the sunflower / And a rose that is fading ... "

Not our San Antonio rose, though, thanks in large part to the efforts of former mayor and current County Judge Nelson Wolff (no relation to Elaine Wolff). As mayor in the early '90s, Wolff advocated for the creation of the Alameda, the organization that has since partnered with the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian and is responsible for renovating the historic Alameda Theatre and the Casa de México International Building, as well as building and operating the Museo Americano. More recently, he proposed the creation of the fledgling Bexar County Arts and Cultural Fund (aka theFund), which will operate a United Way-style employee contribution funding program for local arts organizations. Wolff has also been a supporter of the sometimes beleaguered San Antonio Lyric Opera, and has championed its move to the Municipal Auditorium. His idea of a junket? Visit a nationally renowned performing arts high school - a model for a performing arts campus Wolff would like to see SAISD establish downtown ... rumors say that it might be connected to the Alameda. In his free time, Wolff dreams up ways to connect San Antonio's struggling downtown cultural district with its thriving Southtown neighbor.

Planet of the Tapes proprietrix Angela Martinez keeps her finger in a half-dozen pies, including the online community calendar, Southtown's Oscar night fundraiser, and the summertime outdoor film fest Movies on the Slab. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

"Midnight / Not a sound from the pavement ... "

So often too true of downtown San Antonio, even on a weekend evening. But if the folks behind the new RADIUS collaboration have their way, the silent urban desert around Municipal Auditorium will leap to life. RADIUS is an interesting concept in non-profit organization that offers office and performance space for small non-profits, historic preservation, and commercial offices on Auditorium Circle. The plan is to provide a centralized, cooperative home base for rehearsals and monthly performances by the tenants, generating a locus for arts activity and collaboration. Based on a co-op model but with a for-profit mentality, RADIUS is the brainchild of Paul Carter, whose historic family home sits just behind the old Studebaker showroom that now houses RADIUS. RADIUS provides low-cost, beautiful office space for several performing arts organizations, including the Alamo City Men's Chorale, the Children's Chorus of San Antonio, Dance Umbrella, and the Bexar County Arts & Cultural Fund. Commercial anchor tenants Creative Civilization, one of SA's premier PR firms, and RADIUS Café, scheduled to open next month, add an extra dimension of activity and stability to the non-profit arm of RADIUS.

Jump-Start co-founder Steve Bailey recently changed titles again. Now he's the educational director at the 20-year-old avant-garde theater company, where his facilitation, collaborative design, and lighting continue to draw rave reviews from peers and audiences. (Photo by Laura McKenzie)

"Daylight / I must wait for the sunrise / I must think of a new life ... "

Developer James Lifshutz, son of the late great Bernard, regularly dreams up new life for worn-out pieces of property. With a hand in no less than four downtown riverfront properties, stretching from the San Antonio Museum of Art to the Blue Star Silos `see "No Dick's need apply," March 17-23, 2005`, we hope Lifshutz will continue to be a force for revitalization and business-arts collaboration in the city's central districts.

Business and community synergy comes naturally to recent transplant Angela Martinez. She's been here only four years, but already this Robert Frost-quoting, bird-loving, hard-bowlin' movie fanatic has made an indelible mark on San Antonio's Southtown community. In that time she's co-founded independent movie rental store Planet of the Tapes, helped revive Hermann and Son's bowling alley, launched an outdoor film series at the slab, built the community calendar website, and contributed much time and love to the Southtown neighborhood organization board.

County Judge Nelson Wolff never seems to tire of dreaming up new ways to improve downtown San Antonio. He recently facilitated the San Antonio Lyric Opera's move to the Municipal Auditorium and the creation of the Bexar County Arts & Culture Fund. Next up: a downtown performing arts high school, and a well-traveled route from Southtown to Houston Street. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Ask her what she's been up to lately, and Martinez will briefly mention her day job - designing websites for non-profits and artists - and then steer the conversation to her latest community-building project, such as Southtown's Oscar night party fundraiser held February 27. RACSO has raised more than $4,000 for Southtown's Mainstreet Alliance, which Martinez says is great but not the soul of the endeavor: She observes merchants and neighbors working together to create RACSO, and believes that collaboration helps strengthen Southtown as a community.

What drives this focus? "In part, it's that we have a child and we really want to build a nurturing environment for him to grow up in," says Martinez. "But it's also San Antonio; this place really let's you make a difference."

"The streetlamp dies, another night is over / Another day is dawning ... "

And Jump-Start's Steve Bailey will be there to greet it. Bailey is no longer in transition. "We've actually quit using the word," he says, referring to Jump-Start Performance Co., the artist-run, community-based, progressive theater organization he helped found in 1985. "We're just who we are, and that involves constant change."

As Jump-Start enters its 20th year of continuous artistic and financial growth and increasing national recognition, and Bailey changes job titles for a third time (from artistic director to executive director to educational director), the ability to embrace change will serve them both well.

"If you touch me / You'll understand what happiness is / If you give me a cookie / I will understand what happiness is ... "

The company, initially formed to present new work that engaged social issues and experimented with form, has grown into a multidisciplinary, multicultural powerhouse with a significant roster of education programs. "Adapting a progressive arts teaching methodology to different kinds of populations, that's an artistry," says Bailey. His facilitation (he prefers the term to "direction") of performance work, his collaborative co-creation of company work, and his unapologetically aesthetic lighting designs have earned him critical raves and a devoted local following.

Commercial success, though, was never on the wish list. What was? "Working in a theater, with people I like, collaborating on shows and not feeling like I'm compromising," he says. "And that's happened."

"If you touch me / You'll understand what happiness is / Look / A new day has begun ... "

The Current salutes all of the movers, shakers, and anonymous worker bees - too numerous to mention here - who touch the Alamo City and leave it richer than they found it. Thanks to their efforts, a cultural renaissance has begun.

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Turn off your TV

Talk about discouraging: The FCC hearings came and went and not a damn thing has changed for the better. Oops, I mean gosh-darn thing. Newly appointed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin continues sucking up (can we even say suck?) to the religious right by promising to exorcise indecency from the airwaves, shielding us from nipples and lesbians and the word shit.

Jerry Springer

Thank you for your sanitization efforts, Mr. Martin. Now, could you begin ridding the electrons of offensive content by laying to waste all of San Antonio television news?

By definition, high or otherwise, TV's soundbite-driven, sycophantic sapfest is wretched, but SA's Big Four are particularly sensationalistic: WOAI aka "we don't get out of bed for less than a three-car pileup"; KENS aka "invite us to your next home invasion"; KSAT aka "watch our colonoscopy"; and KABB aka "we never met a stabbing we didn't like."

We do miss News 9 San Antonio: Twenty-four hours of blissful local news, with weather on the nines. There was Floyd the Food Guy, who, as it turns out, was not working out of a cramped, chihuahua-infested mobile home off Roosevelt Avenue, but is actually a New York-area chef named Floyd Misek. And if you wanted news, video journalists Meranda Carter, James Lozado, and Lisa Pinto interviewed anything and everything for the daily news cycle. "You want that City Council report at 4:30 p.m.? You got it, just let me set this camera down on this garbage can, adjust my makeup, and I'll do a two-minute wrap-up on the PGA debate."

Best of SA 2005

Readers' picks - Best Media
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Unfortunately, radio offers few alternatives. WOAI 1200 AM dresses to the right, while Clear Channel's "liberal" programming on 92.5 FM slums it on the left by featuring trashy talk show host Jerry Springer. Springer doesn't speak for the majority of the left, only those who drink Boone's Farm and don't spay or neuter their animals.

If you want to hear intelligent talk radio try Texas Public Radio's KSTX; it's Springer-free and features local and state programming as well as Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and This American Life. Musical adventure lurks left of the dial with college stations KSYM, a deep source for the unknown and underground, and KTRU, whose jazz programming is varied and smart. University of the Incarnate Word's Internet-only station KUIW launched last month, so it can't qualify for the Best of until next year. After a few listens, just a word of advice: Please avoid oldies and Top 40; the dial is riddled with stations eager to play '70s relics and today's vapidness.

"Grrrr... Too many lame jokes make me want to bite Chris Marrou!"

Speaking of vapidness, why is there so much religious programming on the public-access channel? If you can slog through the hellfire and brimstone, then check out last year's critics' pick, The Maledon Variety Show, (Saturdays at 7 p.m.), a trippy program using puppets that looks through a keyhole to the host's tormented inner world, whether she realizes it or not. Last summer I became addicted to the Lounge Show (Sundays at midnight), a kitschified half hour of crooning. A bespectacled host rocks a tumbler of a brandy-looking substance, perches on a stool, and ululates tunes from "Fly Me to the Moon" to "Wildfire." I think it was "Wildfire." It might have been my beer talking.

Media deregulation hasn't provided me with more choices of cable providers. Some San Antonians can opt between Grande Communications or Time-Warner, but the upstart company, which my co-workers have widely lauded, isn't available in my neighborhood or 75 percent of San Antonio. I want my MTV - through Grande.

In the department of shameless self-promotion: The Current's slick new website is intuitive, friendly to navigate, and easy on the eyes, but when I'm not perusing national news sites like,, or, I'll slide over to the locally generated for one-stop political shopping.

Despite SA's media mediocrity - and we didn't even begin to address the Express-News - there is a small beacon of hope: SA's Media Empowerment Project meets the first and third Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, 921 San Pedro.

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