Best of Arts

Best of Arts
Young Kwak photo
We're still swooning over Jess Walter's latest novel, The Cold Millions.

Best Local Band We Can't Wait To See Play Live Again
The itch for live music was strong over the past year; there's only so much satisfaction a music fan can get from streaming a show through their phone or computer. And no band had our voters more anxious to get back inside a music venue than the mighty duo Indian Goat. The pairing of guitarist/vocalist Garrett Zanol and drummer Travis Tveit inspired almost instant adulation among local music fans when they started delivering their psych-y garage rock a few years back. And while Indian Goat dropped a new single ("Rolling Winds") and a cool video mid-pandemic ("Be Your Seer") over the last year, the promise of shows potentially tied to a third full-length album is truly something to celebrate. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Blake Braley Band, Super Sparkle (tie); 3rd PLACE: Cronkites, Allen Stone (tie)

Best Comedian
Casillas has won our readers' vote for best comedian before, and we somehow forgot to invite him to the Inlander party celebrating the winners that year. But before you think his victory in 2021 is some shady effort to make up for our absentmindedness last time around, consider how hard the Spokane-based comic worked through the pandemic despite being forced offstage along with all his fellow funny folks. He threw himself into his podcasts and videos (The Social Hour and The Social Minute), using YouTube and Facebook to reach local comedy fans despite not being able to hear them laugh in real time — often the only reward for a local comedian. While there isn't a Best Of the Inland Northwest party this year, hopefully being our readers' favorite comedian in a time when we all needed laughs more than ever helps make up for it. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Dan Cummins; 3rd PLACE: Kelsey Cook

Best Bookstore
In the strangest year most of us have ever experienced, Spokane's favorite bookstore was there for us, delivering everything we needed to get through isolation at home via mail-order books, curbside pickup and, eventually, a return to browsing the considerable stacks of Auntie's downtown Spokane space. Throw in an impressive array of online author events and it often seemed like Auntie's was busier than ever, even though we couldn't visit for months on end. Readers helped Auntie's survive the pandemic just as Auntie's helped them maintain their sanity. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Giant Nerd Books; 3rd PLACE: Wishing Tree Books; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: The Well-Read Moose

Best Author
There are years when local favorite Walter wins this category based on maybe a new short story or a Pie & Whiskey contribution, but since our last Best Of issue we were blessed with a new novel, The Cold Millions, a brilliant look at labor politics, class warfare and much more set primarily right here in Spokane and the Inland Northwest back in the early 1900s. It's an excellent read, full of action, humor and issues that still resonate more than a century after Spokane evolved from the Wild West toward the city we know and love today. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Sharma Shields; 3rd PLACE: Sherman Alexie

Best Local Visual Artist
Ben Joyce had big plans in the works when the pandemic hit, a schedule of global travels to explore different cities and countries for a TV series and new series of paintings inspired by the people he'd meet along the way. Shortly after introducing his New York City piece at his namesake gallery, COVID put those plans on pause, so fans of Joyce's distinct painting style, one he calls "abstract topophilia," will have to wait a bit for those, perhaps passing the time enjoying the myriad Joyce works dotting the region's public buildings and private homes. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Daniel Lopez; 3rd PLACE: Chris Bovey

Best Dance Studio
For a dance studio that offers a wide range of classes and focuses on top-tier education, look no further than Spokane Elite Dance Studio. Classes range from ballet to lyrical to jazz and hip hop, and Spokane Elite Dance Studio also offers classes for teens and adults, so there's something for anyone who wants to dance. (LP)
2nd PLACE: Dance Center of Spokane; 3rd PLACE: Inland Northwest Ballet of Spokane; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: Alta Dance Academy, Hayden

Best Local Instagram
Since she launched the Spokane Eats Instagram account and blog back in 2014, Texan transplant turned proud Spokanite Chandler Baird has become a trusted, go-to source for rec's on the very best food and beyond of the Inland Northwest: restaurants, events, retailers, services and more. Spokane Eats' online platforms are packed with helpful guides to the area's best burgers, ice cream, sushi and more, and Baird is always one of the first to check out a new restaurant or business in town and share her honest thoughts with followers. (CS)
2nd PLACE: @spokane.guild; 3rd PLACE: @spokaneplayground

Best of Arts
Derek Harrison photo
Bob Gallagher's record store is our readers' favorite.

Best Record Store
4,000 HOLES
What do we love in a record store? A great selection, naturally, across a variety of genres. A knowledgeable staff to offer up suggestions or fill us in on something we heard and want to know more about. And a cool vibe, a space where you're comfortable browsing for a few minutes, or a few hours. All the spots that garnered votes in this category hit those sweet spots, but Bob Gallagher's long-running Spokane store is our readers' favorite. Between the racks of vinyl and CDs, occasional in-store performances and Bob's deep knowledge of Spokane music history, it's tough to beat 4,000 Holes. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Resurrection Records; 3rd PLACE: Total Trash Records and Sound; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: The Long Ear, Coeur d'Alene

Best Virtual Arts Event (Music, Reading, Play) of 2020-21
The pandemic's been brutal for arts organizations of all stripes, and especially so for ones who rely on live, in-person events. EWU's annual literary celebration Get Lit! managed to turn an incredibly challenging year into a worthy online version of its "normal" proceedings thanks to an impressive list of guests joining the event from across the country, a group that included author R.O. Kwon, poet Michael Kleber-Diggs and more. Panel discussions on everything from Indigenous voices to graphic novels to criminal justice reform were highlights, as was the online version of the beloved Pie & Whiskey event. (DN)
2nd PLACE: Spokane Symphony @ Home; 3rd PLACE: I Am My Own Wife, Stage Left Theater; NORTH IDAHO'S BEST: Virtual Art on the Green, Coeur d'Alene