Best Art Gallery
Locust Projects

The cycle of gentrification is hard to break: A not-so-hip neighborhood with cheap rent attracts artists. Their galleries increase both the hipness of the neighborhood and demand for its real estate. Before long, the rent is not so cheap anymore, and artists move on to another undiscovered neighborhood. But Locust Projects has not merely survived the development of its surroundings — it's also thriving. One of a dwindling number of Design District galleries, Locust boasts a uniquely experimental process that brings in exciting talent to create one-of-a kind shows in its ever-evolving space. In the past year, the gallery has commissioned and presented work by artists such as Philadelphia's Jennifer Levonian and Eva Wylie and Chicago's Bethany Collins. The gallery has highlighted local talent as well, like the Miami-born Cristine Brache. And though its surroundings have grown fancy and staid, Locust has maintained its alternative, independent spirit. To celebrate its 20th birthday last September, the space staged the exhibit "20/20: Twenty Artists/Twenty Hours," which was exactly what it sounds like: a marathon art show in which 20 artists or collectives presented newly commissioned works, one per hour. As the geographic center of Miami's arts scene continues to shift, Locust's lasting reign over the corner of NW 39th Street and North Miami Avenue is a welcome constant. The gallery's hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Readers' choice: Avant Gallery

Best Art Fair
Satellite Art Show

As Art Basel has evolved into a gazillion-dollar money-making affair, much of Miami Art Week has become traditional, less risky, and, well, predictable. But Satellite Art Show consistently brings the weird and the whimsy. Case in point: At last year's edition, the first thing to catch your eye as you entered might have been Snoop Dogg Hot Dogs, a collection of giant inflatable hot dogs in buns with the rapper's face at one end. And there's more to this fair than mere spectacle. Local artists such as Milagros Collective and Sleeper also contributed creative cred to the show, along with 38 exhibitors from across the nation. It's a throwback to the days when doing Basel meant witnessing striking pop-up performance art and an exhibit staged in an abandoned storefront that was probably illegal. As Hyperallergic put it: "Miami Beach's Satellite art fair is not a release from an inundation of art, but perhaps it's a reminder of why you like art in the first place."

When Dwyane Wade finally hung up his Miami Heat jersey and retired from the game earlier this year, it marked the end of an era. But there's one place fans can still go to pay homage to the greatest athlete South Florida has seen in decades (and maybe ever, depending upon whom you ask): Little Havana. There, on a wall of a combination gym and spa, Wade's visage stands out in front of the characteristic backdrop of Miami street artist Disem, who painted the wall to honor the legend before his retirement. The All-Star guard gazes serenely out of the mural, a calm intensity in his eyes. Viewers can recognize the neon pinks and blues of the Heat's new Vice jersey resting on his shoulders. Sure, there have been plenty of homages to Wade in Miami throughout his career. Hell, this isn't even the first or second or third mural with his face on it. But now that Wade has left Miami with a ton of goodwill, a helping of nostalgia, and a number-three-size hole in its heart, this one might be the last.

Best Visual Artist
Logan Fazio

Whether it's in murals, sculptures, zines, installations, or even clothing, Jessy Nite's colorful, uplifting art is everywhere in Miami. She's prolific these days, with commissions from Nike on Lincoln Road, Facebook's Miami offices, Soho Beach House, and others — not to mention an Instagram account that gives viewers a fun peek at her daily works-in-process and artsy adventures. Her latest big commission is the massive, permanent Stay Gold installation outside the famous Robert Is Here produce stand in Homestead, which Nite completed earlier this year in partnership with the O, Miami Poetry Festival.

Of the many street artists and muralists working in Miami — and there are legion — only one has created work that's synonymous with Little Haiti: Serge Toussaint. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1963, Toussaint moved to the States when he was 12 and found his way to South Florida in 1994. Soon he was painting for local shops, adding style and color to text-based signs and shop windows. From that practice grew a career as an artist. And though Toussaint's work can be found across South Florida, Little Haiti is the epicenter. His depictions of Haitian cultural figures — everyone from centuries-old political leaders to modern-day dancer Ajhanou Uneek — are a reminder of the neighborhood's unique and vibrant culture. That's become more essential in recent years, as gentrification threatens to disrupt Little Haiti residents' way of life. Toussaint has responded to that threat by adding the phrase "Welcome to Little Haiti" to many of his works, naming his home as a way of protecting it.

Best Instagram Feed
Danny Brito

Scrolling through Instagram can be depressingly corporate these days. Your favorite meme account is secretly sponsored, the influencer you follow is shilling a teeth-whitening system for the umpteenth time, and your high-school acquaintance wastes no opportunity to tell you about the life-changing multilevel marketing company she's joined. Enter Danny Brito: On Instagram, the Miami-based artist shows his colorful, ultra-relatable art prints, stickers, candles, and pins. But Brito's grid is also filled with pictures of his bright, plant-filled home, adorable pugs, and quirky illustrations. His posts are sweet, comforting, and always earnest — a delightful respite in an otherwise anxiety-inducing feed.

Best Stock Photographer
Phillip Pessar / Flickr

Looking for a royalty-free photo of a South Florida hot spot? Phillip Pessar is your guy. Whether you're hunting down a picture of the newest Shake Shack, a construction site downtown, or your local Metrorail station, his Flickr feed is almost guaranteed to have it. For more than a decade, the 62-year-old photographer has been documenting the Magic City and its multiple suburbs in all their splendor — but mostly in their mediocrity. Pessar's goal is to document the changing city as it undergoes development and gentrification. Next time you spot a photo of a building in Miami, check the credit — once you know Pessar's name, you'll start seeing his work everywhere.

Best Flack
Juan Diasgranados

By its very nature, being a reporter means having adversarial working relationships with at least a handful of government spokespeople and flaky PR reps. But not all flacks are created equal. As a former TV news reporter, Juan Diasgranados — a public affairs manager for Miami-Dade Corrections & Rehabilitation — understands the demands of journalists' deadlines and acts accordingly. And he doesn't stop at simply responding to questions. Diasgranados is continually pitching story ideas, such as telling reporters about an effort by correctional officers to bring hot meals to unpaid prison guards during the federal government's shutdown in January. Most important, Diasgranados is friendly, frank, and fast — everything a flack should be.

Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi

Going to the theater is cool enough. But going to a theater housed inside a historic venue on Miracle Mile in downtown Coral Gables is even cooler. What was once an art deco movie house is now a three-stage performance center with a main stage, balcony theater, and multipurpose black-box space, perfect for a date night or girls' night — or when you just feel like taking yourself out. At Actors' Playhouse, you'll find classic offerings such as Mama Mia! and Camelot mixed in with contemporary shows like Doubt and Ring of Fire, both showing in 2019. An extra perk of Actors' Playhouse is its embrace of Miami talent, as evidenced by its scheduled 2020 production of ¡Fuácata! or a Latina's Guide to Surviving the Universe, created by locals Elena María García and Stuart Meltzer. Even the kids will feel at home here with shows such as Schoolhouse Rock and Puss in Boots, plus theater and film camps are available during the summer so you can keep the drama out of your home.

Readers' choice: Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre

Best Theater Company
Giancarlo Rodaz

In 1989, Area Stage Company (ASC) was born. Thirty years later, the theater company has become a local and regional model for how to put on a damn good show. In addition to presenting locally inspired works and events, ASC isn't afraid to take on the big names. Case in point: Its latest season boasted everything from Disney's The Little Mermaid to The Wizard of Oz to Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical. On top of its typically wow-worthy performances, ASC is all about boosting the community's skills. For example, the company regularly hosts group acting, singing, and dance classes and even offers the Inclusion Theatre Project for aspiring student actors aged 5 and up with developmental disabilities. The company will soon move from its Riviera Plaza home to a venue that's yet to be announced. But wherever it lands, you certainly won't want to miss any of the action.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®