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 Winners: Arts & Entertainment

Where’s the best place to see a movie? Who puts on the East Valley’s greatest plays or musicals? See your picks below.

Best Art Gallery
READER PICK

Mesa Contemporary Arts

The five-gallery museum space at Mesa Arts Center topped readers’ picks not only for its intriguing and ever-changing art exhibitions but for the aesthetic appeal of the subterranean venue. Surprisingly light and bright for being underground, it features a below-street-level patio with a waterfall wall. One more thing to love? MCA’s annual “10 X 10 Benefit Show & Sale,” a casual art party with food, a cash bar, live music and a smorgasbord of original art works priced at $100 a piece.

1 E. Main St., Mesa
(480) 644-6500
mesaartscenter.com

Voter Comments:

“Great exhibits and gorgeous spaces!”

“Beautiful and interesting art.”

“It has very diverse and thought provoking art in a beautiful location.”

Runners Up:

Twisted Sisters’ Designs, Mesa; Gallery 225, Gilbert
Best Movie Theater
READER PICK

Harkins Theatres

Best Movie Theater

The sixth-largest theater chain in the nation has Arizona roots dating back to 1933. Harkins keeps that feeling of community going strong with a customer loyalty program that voters made note of (the Harkins Loyalty Cup or T-shirt; buy one and you get $1 pop refills and a free medium bag of popcorn for the rest of the calendar year) and by hosting the annual Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona and Jewish film festivals.

Multiple locations
(480) 627-7777
www.harkinstheatres.com

Voter Comments:

“Stadium seating, $1 drinks and free popcorn with a (Loyalty) shirt.”

“Because Dan Harkins is a true film lover and dedicates some of his venues to art films, and because he is truly a local success story.”

“Best value, student discount and comfortable seating for large bottoms.”

Runners Up:

Cinemark, AMC
Best Museum
READER PICK

Arizona Museum of Natural History

There’s only one place in the East Valley where you can watch a flash flood cascade past moving, noise-making dinosaurs on a three-story mountain -- and voters can’t get enough of it. They loved this museum’s Dinosaur Hall, authentic territorial jail cells and do-it-yourself mining operations.

53 N. Macdonald
(480) 644-2230
www.azmnh.org

Voter Comments:

“We love the dinosaurs and digging for gold.”

“Most engaging learning-by-doing experiences for kids and adults alike, and animated dinosaurs!”

Runners Up:

Gilbert Historical Museum; Arizona Museum for Youth, Mesa
Best Open Mic Night
TRIB PICK

Blackbird Music & Art Center

Best Open Mic Night

You probably expected to find "pub," "tavern" or "bar" in the name of this pick.

But who wants to endure another half-drunk signer who stumbled onto the stage and wrested control of the mic? When you're ready for a break from the bar, Blackbird Music & Art Center is worth checking out.

The cool digs are welcoming. And the places embraces music for all ages. There's private lessons, group sessions and even rock band gatherings for young musicians.

The family-run Blackbird brings students and professionals together, which makes for a better open mic night than a place known for its drink specials. Open mic nights start at 7 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.

You might see us there next time, but don't worry. We won't grab the mic. You deserve better than that.

Location: 18911 E. San Tan Blvd., Queen Creek
Contact: (480) 677-4159

Runners Up:

Yucca Tap Room in Tempe
Best Performing Arts/Live Music Venue
READER PICK

Mesa Arts Center

Best Performing Arts/Live Music Venue

You don’t spend $99.2 million building a brand-new arts facility and wind up with a bad place to see (or hear) a live show. At least, not if you’re Mesa Arts Center. The crown jewel of its four-theater complex, the 1,600-seat Tom and Janet Ikeda Theater, features four levels of seating, walls that conjure the eroded sandstone of desert canyons, and an acoustic system designed to bring the audience close to the stage.

1 E. Main St., Mesa
(480) 644-6500
mesaartscenter.com

Voter Comments:

“I like the intimacy of the smaller theaters, and the acoustics in the large theater are outstanding.”

“Great shows and a beautiful facility.”

“Amazing accoustics, and the sight lines are all pretty great.”

“It’s an under-used venue but a great place to see musical acts. Two of the best concerts I have ever seen were there: Steve Perry and Sammy Hagar!”

Runners Up:

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Mesa (Best Performing Arts Venue); Marquee Theatre, Tempe; Mesa Amphitheatre (Best Live Music Venue)
Best Local Performing Arts Troupe
READER PICK

The National Comedy Theatre Players

Best Local Performing Arts Troupe

No two shows at the National Comedy Theatre are ever the same, thanks to a completely improvisational comedy competition format where the audience shouts out suggestions, challenges the performers and decides which team of comedians is funniest. Random bonus factoid NCT’s Facebook followers already know: You’ll soon be able to order an NCT-themed sandwich at Dilly’s Deli, based on the “brown bag foul” in the group’s comedy shows.

1111 S. Longmore, Mesa
(602) 374-5638
www.nctphoenix.com

Voter Comments:

“I love, love, love the hilarious games they play. They are sooo good!”

“The shows are always high energy, the content is family friendly and gosh darn it, I like them.”

“I’ve never laughed so hard.”

Runners Up:

Romantasy Cabaret, Tempe; San Tan Community Performing Arts, East Valley; Southwest Shakespeare Company, Mesa
Best Public Sculpture
READER PICK

Mesa’s Permanent Sculpture Collection

Best Public Sculpture

From a polar bear and her cubs to a giant pink armchair, the 30-plus sculptures keeping silent watch over Mesa’s walkable downtown square mile touch on abstract modern art, wildlife, whimsical characters and an array of human likenesses inspired by real people who lived and worked in the city. You can find the story behind each sculpture and a map for a self-guided tour online or at the Downtown Mesa Association’s Center Street office.

Main Street in downtown Mesa
(480) 890-2613
www.downtownmesa.com/sculptures.htm

Voter Comments:

“I love Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall in front of Il Vinaio.”

Runners Up:

Gilbert’s Water Tower Plaza
Best Re-use Of A Vending Machine
TRIB PICK

The Vision Gallery

Best Re-use Of A Vending Machine

Jackson Pollack -- the temperamental expressionist painter famous for chain-smoking while splashing color on canvas -- would love the Vision Gallery in Chandler. The gallery features the Art-O-Mat, which dispenses art from an old cigarette vending machine.

The original machine at the gallery was so popular that a second dispenser was placed in the Chandler Center for the Arts.

Artists from around the world are featured in the machine and each piece costs $5.

The Vision Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sundays.
Location: 10 E. Chicago St., Chandler
Website: http://www.visiongallery.org
Contact: (480) 782-2695

Best Place for Karaoke
READER PICK

Stadium Club

Best Place for Karaoke

This corner bar known for friendly staff and affordable prices hosts karaoke starting at 9 p.m. every night but Monday and Thursday. Drink specials abound, and the kitchen stays open late -- or should we say early? Either way, we’re talkin’ 2 a.m.-ish.

940 N. Alma School Road, Chandler
(480) 963-3866
On Facebook

Voter Comments:

“Mike Henry does an amazing job dj-ing! Never a dull moment, and his selection of music is fantastic!”

“Fun! Great people, and good food reasonably priced.”

“The bar is small so you don’t have to be nervous about singing in front of a crowded room of a lot of people. And Bob is the best host ever!”

Runners Up:

Trophy’s Steakhouse, Queen Creek
Best Place To Start An Art Collection
TRIB PICK

SunDust Gallery's Basement Art Outlet

Best Place To Start An Art Collection

Think you can't afford original art? Think again.

SunDust Gallery's Basement Art Outlet is exactly that. A basement full of original artwork for sale at savings up to 80 percent off retail prices.

Framed prints and painted canvases line the brick walls. Sculptures and small prints fill tabletops. And better still, the work is from local artists.

Want to start your collection of contemporary acrylic paintings? How about a series of metal sculptures? Or one-of-a-kind photographs of the Arizona desert?

The basement carries hundreds of original pieces, with prices starting at $5. Nothing is more than $250.

Located in downtown Mesa, SunDust Gallery features work from more than 130 Arizona artists in over 4700 square feet of display space. The eclectic gallery includes a variety of art including paintings, mixed media, sculptures, jewelry, prints, watercolor and more. SunDust also offers art classes and art shows.

Location: 48 W. Main St. Suite 100, Mesa
Contact: (480) 464-6077
Website: http://www.sundustgallery.com

Runners Up:

Vision Gallery in Chandler