Best Art Fair
HG Contemporary / Laura Kimpton

Finding Basel Week balance can be tricky: You want to see great art, but you also don't want to take yourself too seriously. Aqua Art Miami lets you do both. Among the galleries showing at South Beach's Aqua Hotel in 2017 was an exhibit curated by the Consulate General of Canada, which showed off some of our northern neighbors' most impressive work. But visitors also witnessed quirkier stuff such as live tattooing by renowned tattoo artist Thea Duskin, and a 16-foot-tall golden bust of a female monkey by artist Laura Kimpton, who earned her fame at Burning Man. Aqua also offers some of the cheapest drinks you'll find at a South Beach fair, running a daily two-for-one happy hour — a welcome reprieve from the prohibitively priced Ruinart bubbles at the convention center.

No, Space Mountain Miami isn't a spinoff of the popular ride at the Magic Kingdom. But though you can't rocket through Disney's version of outer space at this Little Haiti gallery, you might just be able to do things equally awesome. Led by director Alice Apfel, Space Mountain stages exhibits by local artists, often collaborating with artists from Miami institutions such as Borscht Corporation and PornNail$. These aren't stuffy affairs; in March, for example, artist Katiana Elena installed an immersive ode to Kanye West. Apfel keeps the space operational largely by programming related events such as live music, film screenings, and political talks. One of them, a late-2017 "Salacious Sunday" sex-ed workshop, sadly had to be canceled after it proved to be a little too experimental for enough people to RSVP. But hey, pushing boundaries is what art is all about, right?

The Bass
Photo by Zachary Balber

The Bass is back, and it's bigger than ever. When the ocean-facing museum finally reopened last October after a lengthy renovation, critics were ready to pounce. Construction delays had moved its reopening date back a full year. Would the results be worth the wait? Totally. One of the Bass' opening exhibitions, "Good Evening Beautiful Blue" by Ugo Rondinone, swiftly took over Miami's social media feeds, as photos and selfies with the artist's melancholy clown sculptures racked up likes and shares. And the renovations themselves have only enhanced visitors' experience. There's now double the space inside, including a cafe and a center for kids and teens.

Coral Gables Art Cinema
Courtesy of Coral Gables Art Cinema

The phrase "arthouse cinema" conjures images of black-and-white, subtitled foreign films with plots moving slower than rush hour traffic on the causeway. Coral Gables Art Cinema is helping undo that perception. It has a family program, screening classic favorites such as The Muppet Movie at kid-appropriate times. Long after the little ones have gone to bed, grown-up film fans fill its seats for midnight showings of beloved crowd pleasers and cult films: Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet, Pulp Fiction, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and beyond. The theater's recent series, including a Wes Anderson retrospective and a lineup of Cuban independent films, expertly target the interests of Miami's diverse, offbeat film community.

Best Author
Miami Girls Foundation

Even in the sunny place with shady people that is South Florida, 2018 has been particularly dark: corrupt politicians, violence in the news, sea levels continuing to threaten our homes. But Octavia Yearwood, author of How the Hell Did You Do That?, is here to brighten everyone's outlook. Yearwood, an arts educator and motivational speaker, grew up with a mother who struggled with drug addiction, and later, survived the foster care system. But she came through it strong, and she's paying it forward by sharing her story and her advice. How the Hell Did You Do That? is intended to help her fellow foster kids and other young survivors of childhood trauma recover and claim their power. But the lessons inside — owning one's choices, forgiveness, and radical self-love — can benefit even the most emotionally healthy Miamian.

Best Dance Company
Photo by Carlo Javier

Aside from classic fare, such as The Nutcracker at Christmastime, Miami has few dance traditions. But Alma Dance Theater, led by Marissa Alma Nick, has carved one out: Cask, a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's short story The Cask of Amontillado, which the company restages every year to coincide with the spooky Halloween holiday. For Nick, choreography is an ever-evolving process. Pieces such as Cask and Flowers, another of her recurring works inspired by her grandmother, shift and change with each new year. Last year's reworking of Cask, for example, featured an all-female cast — a move that's on brand for Alma, whose work often focuses on the movements and stories of women. The troupe's latest work is A Rebel in Venus, directly inspired by millennials and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Best Dancer
Photo by Jared Sharon

They say the best dancers put their partners' well-being above their own. By that measure, Pioneer Winter is a contemporary dance master. Winter, an MFA recipient, Horatio Alger Scholar, Dennis R. Washington Achievement Scholar, and widely awarded artist, is technically masterful. He's also incredibly prolific, creating, choreographing, performing, or otherwise supporting the local dance community with new shows and events every month. But it's his commitment to his fellow dancers, and to his fellow man, that elevates him to greatness. His troupe, the Pioneer Winter Collective, is comprised of unconventional dancers — people whose races, ages, body types, and disabilities are rarely seen onstage. He collaborates with, rather than directs, those dancers, incorporating their identities and experiences into his work. The results are unexpected and powerful movements that uplift — physically, emotionally, and culturally — some of society's most overlooked and abandoned groups.

Best Festival
Photo by Karli Evans

Miami has undergone a drag renaissance in recent years, expanding the definition of the term beyond the traditional RuPaul aesthetic. Local queens and kings increasingly use avant-garde, gender-bending modes of dress and performance inspired by everything from aliens from outer space to art films to Kellyanne Conway. Nowhere will you find a better or more diverse representation of South Florida's legion of creative queer performers than at Wigwood, the annual festival celebrating all kinds of queer performances. The festival only launched in 2017, but it has since expanded into an extravaganza of queer culture taking place at multiple venues and drawing hundreds of attendees dressed in their weirdest, wildest attire. Frankly, the world could use a lot more of Wigwood's welcoming, anything-goes culture, in which the only qualification for acceptance is an open mind.

Best Film Director
Courtesy photo

When Agua Viva, the animated short film by Alexa Lim Haas, debuted at the Borscht Film Festival, it had plenty of competition for buzz. Other crowd-favorite films that night included a weirdly terrifying reproduction of a Red Lobster commercial and a documentary about an internet-famous millennial bro who somehow befriends local deer. But Haas' dreamy, melancholy tale of a Chinese woman working at a Miami nail salon made an impression on local audiences. Haas expertly evokes the emotions of feeling lost in translation, a familiar sensation to anyone who's navigated South Florida's patchwork of diverse languages and cultures. Agua Viva continued to impress at film festivals such as SXSW 2018, where it was the jury award winner for animated short. But awards only confirm what Miami audiences already knew: that beyond the Scarface and Bad Boys stereotypes, there's a quiet, introspective side to the Magic City.

Best LGBTQ Party
Courtesy of Gender Blender

Is there anything more punk than being queer? Both communities take a stand against discrimination and for rights and nonconformity. And there's no better mashup of the punk and queer aesthetic than Gender Blender, an LGBTQ party that originated at Little Haiti punk haven Churchill's and has since moved to new but crusty Allapattah venue Las Rosas. Every fourth Sunday of the month, Gender Blender stages live performances by visiting artists and locals alike, blending drag, booze, and a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll into one glitter bomb/Molotov cocktail hybrid of a dance party.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®