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Best of Rochester: Arts & Entertainment 

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Nightlife, music, theater, and art, CITY readers know them by heart . . .

Best Actor

Talk about stage presence. Winter is everywhere in Rochester theater and has graced stages around the country and abroad. The longtime actress has been instrumental in bringing new plays to life locally and sits on Geva Theatre Center’s new Artistic Council.
Mrs. Kasha Davis | Che Holloway | Justin Rielly

Best Artist

Dunwoody’s art is as big and bold as his ideals. The city is his canvas.
John Magnus Champlin | Will Perkins | Sarah Rutherford

Best Band (Cover)

Whether ZBTB is playing a cramped pub, crowded concert hall, backyard BBQ, or a party in the park, this high-energy tribute to the chart-topping country music Zac Brown Band gets its crowds dancing and yelling, “Yee-haw!”
The Seven Wonders | The Skycoasters | Something Else

Best Band (Original)

Don’t let the collegiate-clad name fool you. This six-piece ensemble with a blues-country-folk vibe is anything but stodgy and conservative. Its portfolio houses an array of original songs and pays homage to the greats with a selection of crowd-pleasing covers.
Joywave | Danielle Ponder | Undeath

Best Art Gallery

Visiting the Memorial Art Gallery means journeying through 5,000 years of art history that includes a healthy schedule of temporary exhibitions, lectures, concerts, and tours. The museum’s permanent collection has been called “the best balanced in the state” outside New York City.
Artisan Works | Rochester Contemporary Art Center | UUU Art Collective

Best Arts Event

Despite being postponed for two years and running courtesy of the pandemic, the Park Ave. Fest is top of mind for festival lovers for the more than 300 artists and 30 musical acts it brings to trendy Park Avenue every August. The festival is looking to resurface in 2022.
6X6 | Corn Hill Arts Festival | KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival | M&T Bank Clothesline Festival

Best Club DJ

Two-time Best of Rochester winner Michael Ruger, also known as DJ Mighty Mic, is a Rochester favorite in the DJ booth who brings down the house at his Culver Road nightclub Roar.
DJ Chreath | DJ Darkwave | DJ Kalifornia

Best Comedian or Comedy Troupe

Billed as Rochester’s longest-running sketch-comedy troupe, Nuts & Bolts, founded in 1999 by two high school chums who were tired of making each other laugh, earns major LOLs for its pitch-perfect blend of satire and silliness.
Malcolm Whitfield | Refined Taste | Todd Youngman

Best Dance Company

Known the world over for his dazzling choreography, Garth Fagan has captivated and inspired audiences for more than 50 years.
Biodance | PUSH Physical Theatre | Rochester City Ballet

Best Drag Performer

She’s come a long way, baby, from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The flamboyant and beloved drag queen alter ego of Ed Popil is at the top of her game right now with the launch of her new children’s TV show “Imagination Station with Mrs. Kasha Davis.”
DeeDee Dubois | Darienne Lake | Wednesday Westwood

Best Hip Hop Act

Moses Rockwell’s rapid-fire rhythmic rhymes run from his tongue like an inmate getting sprung. Hey, we tried, all right? But seriously, Rockwell’s sound is smooth, infectious, and real gone.
Ishmael | M Dot Coop | Noah Fense

Best Live Music Venue (Large)

Whether on the lawn or under the hang, there isn’t a bad seat in the house at this Canandaigua performing arts center. Over the years, CMAC has drawn some of the biggest names in music and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Blue Cross Arena | Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre | Main Street Armory

Best Live Music Venue (Small)

Anyone who's anyone in Rochester music has played this cramped counterculture mainstay of the arts scene on Monroe Avenue. The Bug Jar draws some of the best touring acts around and takes pride in giving shine to up-and-coming local talent.
Abilene | Anthology | Photo City Music Hall

Best Museum

Consistently ranked atop the list of Rochester’s tourist attractions, The Strong, as the museum wants to be known, is a wonderland for kids and kids-at-heart.
George Eastman Museum | Memorial Art Gallery | Rochester Museum and Science Center

Best Mural or Public Art

A collaborative of artists working through Project AIR created this mural, which depicts a black-and-white portrait of Daniel Prude against a backdrop of yellow and green silhouettes of people protesting, as what they called “a direct response to the city of Rochester’s involvement” in his death.
Cobbs Hill Water Towers | “I Am Speaking” | “Stories of Strength”

Best Solo Musician

Rochester’s soul-singing wonder Danielle Ponder has had a hell of a run the last couple of years, breaking onto the national scene after catching National Public Radio’s attention as a standout in its 2020 Tiny Desk Contest. The rest of America wants her, but we get to call her our own.
Jake Wren | Teagan Ward | Lung Cycles

Best Photographer

Photography is in the blood of this multi-Best of Rochester winner, who is perhaps best known for his images of area landscapes, including hauntingly beautiful photos of Lake Ontario. Jim Montanus is the son of legendary Kodak photographer Neil Montanus.
Aaron Winters | Quajay Donnell | Teale Brown

Best Published Author

This multi-Best of winner has a long list of published short stories, many of which are set in her hometown of Penn Yan. Looking to learn from one of the best? Snyder runs a creative writing group called Keuka Writes.
Dave Chisholm | Gary Craig | Frances Tepper

Best Published Poet

Rachel McKibbens is a real deal poet. Her works have been featured in numerous journals, including The Los Angeles Review, World Literature Today, and The Rumpus, the latter of which wrote that she “awakens and haunts with selfless honesty.”
Albert Abonado | Andrew Conley | Charlie Cote | Jacob Rakovan

Best Theater Company

Founded in 1972, Geva is Rochester’s flagship theater company and the most attended regional theater in New York. Look for changes on the horizon with the impending retirement of its longtime artistic director Mark Cuddy.
The Avenue Black Box Theatre | Blackfriars Theatre | Off Monroe Players | Rochester Community Players

In This Guide...

  • Best of Rochester: The winners . . .

    This year, some 10,349 discerning CITY readers cast 426,656 votes to determine the Best of Rochester winners across 110 categories. Here, we present the top picks of the people, places, and things that make Rochester home.

  • Best of Rochester: Food & Drink

    Hankering for burgers, baked goods, or beer? CITY readers come here . . .

  • Best of Rochester: Recreation

    From first dates to dancing and shooting stick to shooting hoops, CITY readers have the scoop . . .

  • Best of Rochester: Goods & Services

    Whether you're looking for flowers, a haircut, or that special gift for a four-legged friend, CITY readers recommend . . .

  • Best of Rochester: Who we are

    They rise above the crowd, they make CITY readers proud . . .

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