Best of Arts + Nightlife 2013

Best Contemporary Art Surprise: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Best Contemporary Art Surprise: Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Art, Theater, Dance, and Music

Best Kept Secret Venue

While others are gorging on Netflix, true film aficionados find their way to the Walker Cinema, where the screen is a window to the world and international genius is on display almost every week. Walker Art Center, 612-375-7600, walkerart.org

Best Kept Secret Live Music

Owned by the folks who make musical magic at the 331 Club, Amsterdam Bar and Hall taps an amazing variety of up-and-coming artists and bands, and it plays occasional host to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series—the epitome of experimental music making. 6 W. 6th St., St. Paul, 612-285-3112, amsterdambarandhall.com

Best Bookmaker: Milkweed Editions

Since taking over in 2005, president and CEO Daniel Slager has shrewdly navigated the treacherous terrain that is contemporary book publishing, propelling Milkweed Editions into the first rank of independent American book publishers. In a world overrun by teen-vampire books and marginally literate detective novels, Milkweed has flourished by, gasp!, catering to the tastes of people who like to read, who appreciate quality writing, and who have come to trust the press’s carefully curated sensibility of accessible intelligence. You may never have heard of certain authors, but if Milkweed is publishing them, their work comes pre-vetted, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or a young-adult novel. There are also plenty of authors—Larry Watson, David Rhodes, Susan Straight, Bill McKibben, Marilyn Chin, and many others—whose national reputation has been burnished by Milkweed’s magic touch. Trust us, there will be many more. 1011 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-3192, milkweed.org

Best Contemporary Art Surprise: Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The MIA is not a contemporary art museum, of course, but its new curator of contemporary art, Liz Armstrong, broke that mold with the most provocative contemporary art show of the year, More Real?: Art in the Age of Truthiness, and has incorporated extraordinary new works into the current exhibition, Sacred, which combines pieces culled from all the museum’s departments, organized around the theme of sacredness. 612-870-3000, artsmia.org

Best Concert Event

We Day, the annual event that encourages kids to give back to their community by rewarding them with tickets to a killer concert, came to town this year. That’s reason enough to make our best list, but the star-studded concert was extra notable because it was the last performance by the Jonas Brothers before they split—breaking the hearts of tween girls everywhere.

Best Meeting of the Minds

The Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival featured an epic meeting between two Internet superstars, Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat, who actually graced the State Fair Grandstand stage together.

Best Musical Revival: The Podium

Guitarists mourned at the news: The guitar store where Dylan used to buy his strings was being shut down to make way for luxury student condos. Luckily, the owners of the Dinkytown shop partnered with Guitar Rodeo Company, and the new Podium, in south Minneapolis, is as good and friendly as ever. 4151 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-767-2800, thepodium.com

Best New Jazz Series: JT's Jazz Implosion

Drummer extraordinaire JT Bates (Fat Kid Wednesdays, Alpha Consumer, The Pines, etc.) used to host a regular late-night jam-fest in the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge, but now he and a rotating cast of local musical luminaries (the man knows everyone in town) bust things wide open every Monday night on Icehouse’s classy, intimate stage. Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-276-6523, icehousempls.com

Best Literary Hangout: Common Good Books

Garrison Keillor has a soft spot for poets, maybe because they are the Lutherans of the literary world—the great unsung heroes of literary struggle and persistence. For all their hard work, poets get no money, no glory, no attention, and very little appreciation. But if they want it, they can get a reading at Common Good Books, where the monthly calendar is generously peppered with purveyors of the poetic arts, as in a recent reading by Minnesota poets Patricia Barone, Kate Dayton, and Margaret Hasse. They sell a lot of poetry in the store, too—or at least they try— and that’s more than most. 38 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-225-8989, commongoodbooks.com