Rothko Chapel

Relaxation comes in many forms: a hot bath, a cold beer, even a long run. The greatest peace any of us can have, and thus the most relaxed we can be, comes from peace of mind. While we might not all agree on that beer or that run, everyone can benefit from a few minutes of sitting inside the quiet calm of Rothko Chapel. Whether you choose to stare at one of the paintings on the walls, sit with a book or meditate on the ground, you'll walk out of the chapel feeling calmer. You may not find a higher truth, but you will be more relaxed.

This is a bittersweet award this year. Dominic Walsh, a longtime leading dancemaker in Houston and this year's Best Choreographer award winner, is leaving town — at least for a little while. Walsh came to Houston as a teenager in 1987 and spent several years as a dancer with the Houston Ballet, working with then-artistic director Ben Stevenson, who created several roles for him including Marc Antony in Cleopatra. During his time with the Houston Ballet, Walsh earned an international reputation as a gifted and exciting performer. He founded the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater in 2002 and went on to win accolades as a daring, bold choreographer. Two of the dancers he has most closely worked with over the years have been Domenico Luciano, originally from Italy and Walsh's longtime partner, and Hana Sakai, from Japan. The two (either alone or as a pair) have been at the center of many of Walsh's most provocative creations, including Uzume (2012), Clair de Lune (2011), The Firebird (2009), Camille Claudel (2012) and, most recently, the film project Malta Kano, TX. Walsh has suspended the upcoming 2014-2015 season for his company and is joining Luciano in a move to Colorado. The future of the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater is uncertain, but audiences hope to see him again in Houston soon.

There are Houston designers with larger clienteles and larger staffs than Kate dePara: Her store, Evens, has only five outlets, and her workforce consists of herself and one seamstress/patternmaker. But there aren't any Houston designers with more commitment to craft or customers. The name "Evens" is a nod to dePara's search for balance in all things, and she designs not only the clothing but also the textiles, with some hand-dyeing to boot. The clothing is uncomplicated and yet sophisticated, easy to wear and — most important — easy to feel wonderful in.

There's a lovely, geeky, cool, nerdy reciprocal relationship between NASA scientists and Hollywood filmmakers that has made for some interesting science-fact-meets-science-fiction moments at the Space Center Houston, our winner for Best Tourist Attraction. Astronauts have often credited sci-fi films with sparking their interest in science and outer space. Filmmakers, on the other hand, cite the real-life space feats by NASA that inspired them to create their movies. A longtime fan of the space program, George Lucas, for example, has shared some of the memorabilia from his films with the center including props, costumes and shooting scripts covered with handwritten notes by Lucas from his Star Wars series. (R2-D2 and C-3PO were featured stars at the recent exhibit "The Cinema of George Lucas.") Looking to experience something a little more reality-based? The space center has an ongoing schedule of ever-changing exhibits and learning camps; it's home to artifacts from NASA programs including space capsules, moon rocks and astronaut suits. There are plenty of hands-on exhibits; you can experience a fleeting sense of weightlessness or navigate the controls of a spacecraft or a lunar rover.

Lei Low Bar
David Rozycki

Lei Low Rum Lounge doesn't look like the obvious choice when you're after a good cocktail. It's stuck next to a convenience store in a badly paved little strip center in the Heights. But those not deterred by the coconut-and-palm-tree decor are in for a treat. Lei Low is a tiki bar, of course, but the drinks on the menu aren't just the usual rum-based fare. (The London Fog, like a lighter Old Fashioned but with a Scotch base, is amazing.) The bartenders know their stuff. Whether you want something on the menu or are hankering for a drink as vague as "something summery with whiskey in it," they will serve up a remarkable bit of drinkable art in a glass.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Film Curator Marian Luntz has a gig that's the envy of movie fans everywhere. She travels to film festivals around the world, watches hundreds of movies — classics, blockbusters, new releases, unknown gems — and then determines the museum's schedule of year-round programming. From the annual Latin Wave, a showcase of the best in new work from Latin American directors, to special one-time-only screenings such as the recent revival of A Hard Day's Night celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark Beatles film, Luntz programs it all. (With lots of help, we're sure she'd tell you.) To be as successful as she is, Luntz has to have the rare combination of an artistic eye; an encyclopedic knowledge of film movements, genres, directors and actors past and present; and a sensitivity to cultural sensibilities. Oh, and she has to keep abreast of the latest political situations around the globe (a revolution abroad or a coup in some war-torn country could seriously screw with the possibility of bringing a director or actor to Houston for an appearance).

McGonigel's Mucky Duck
Jeff Balke

McGonigel's Mucky Duck is the kind of venue you dream about seeing your favorite band or singer in. Every seat is a good one, everything sounds wonderful and if you need something to eat or drink, you don't have to get out of your seat. It attracts good crowds who actually care about music and aren't just spending money to have a fancy soundtrack play behind their private conversations. Imagine everything you like about concerts with none of the bad. McGonigel's is like going to a show at a friend's house if your friend were rich and invited excellent bands over to play.

Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall

We've spent many nights knocking stripes and solids at this longtime Montrose pool hall, partly out of our love for billiards, but also because of the friendly staff and excellent specials. That's the kind of atmosphere Slick Willie's offers — before you know it, two hours have gone by, and you can't even remember who won the last game. With its 22 eight-foot tables and two nine-footers, a generous happy hour, plenty of pub grub, and $5 all-day-play every Wednesday, you're guaranteed to have a great time no matter when you go.

Landmark River Oaks Theatre

The magic of cinema is really discovered only on the big screen. While Landmark River Oaks is not the only place in town showing older films, the theater's midnight series is one of the best weekly events in the city, a celebration of cult classics that everyone should experience in the picture show at least once. From the campy chaos of Rocky Horror to the modern madness of The Room, these are the types of films best experienced late at night with a crowd. Skip the obnoxious lines at the local bars and see a bit of cinema history. You won't regret the late-night drive home.

This is the second time David A. Brown has won the nod for Best Photographer; the first was in 2010. His most recent show, "New Works by David A. Brown: trying to find my way...," at the Jung Center of Houston, featured large-scale photographs of reflected images — that is, a multitude of images, all simultaneously seen in the same space (for example, Brown shot through store windows and captured the scene outside on the street reflected over the inside of the store). Brown is working on a new series, and while we've seen only bits and pieces of his latest work — a "chopped and screwed" technique that incorporates the passage of time — we're excited about what he's got coming up.

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