Best of our Valley 2018: Arts & Entertainment

by Alyssa Tidwell  

Best Local Filmmaker/Videographer: CS Marketing Studio

Crissty Santana, owner of CS Marketing Studio, is a marketing master. She does everything from graphic and Web design to video and photography to printing her designs on paper and apparel. A boutique business, Santana works primarily in Arizona’s beauty and entertainment industries, making sure to capture each client’s individual style, be it bold, modern or classy. What began as a woman with a single camera and a computer has grown into a formidable business of loyal clientele. Also a 2017 winner!  

AFM Fave! Best Local Band/Musician: Michael Land

His sultry sound, crafty lyrical prowess and genuine nature makes soulful Michael Land our very own Phoenix version of John Legend or Justin Timberlake. Land’s passion for music began at age 14, when he began honing his skills as a vocalist and songwriter. Today, he tours as a professional musician both locally and on a national scale.

Best Improv Group: Chaos Comedy

Looking for a laugh? Check out Dearing Acting Studio’s improv comedy troupe, Chaos Comedy, as they light up Lighthouse Theater every fourth Friday of the month. Make it a family affair: with hilarious yet clean content, guests of all ages are welcome to attend. And if you’ve ever considered cultivating a bit of your own comedic prowess, Dearing Acting Studio offers weekly adult improv classes—in fact, many Chaos Comedy members come straight out of these workshops. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Annual Gala: Evening to Paws Arizona Animal Welfare League

(AAWL), a no-kill shelter, hosts the always-anticipated Evening to Paws gala, which honors the animals AAWL saves and the people who have served them. Always a jubilant affair full of music, dance, food and entertainment, past themes have included “CoPawCobana Club” and “St. PawTrick’s Day.” Among the animals honored throughout the years is retired military working dog, Rex, who served his country in Kuwait, Iraq and Kyrgyzstan as part of the 56th Security Forces Squadron. events/evening-paws-gala.

Best Acting Studio: Dearing Acting Studio

In operation for more than a decade, Dearing Acting Studio is a sought-after acting academy in Arizona, offering classes like on-camera acting, improv comedy and a master-level intensive course. Founded by notable local actors Matthew and Leeann Dearing, kids as young as five years old and all the way up to adults can improve their acting ability, hone their craft and build their self confidence through weekly courses and private coaching. And students regularly get the chance to apply what they’ve learned to the mainstage at the Lighthouse Theater, located inside the Dearing Acting Studio in North Phoenix. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Annual Fashion Show: Xavier Scholarship Fashion Show

Professional models sporting the hottest designs, as well as more than 250 Xavier and Brophy seniors, all strut their stuff at the Xavier Scholarship Fashion show at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in a yearly charitable event that benefits more than 40 percent of Xavier students who receive financial assistance. What began as a humble alumnae event in the 1950’s has grown into a high-fashion, large-scale spectacle today. This year’s show, themed “Shine,” will honor the 75th/ Diamond Anniversary of Xavier’s founding in 1943. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Annual Charity Event: Compassion with Fashion

For 20 years, the Arizona Humane Society’s Compassion with Fashion has celebrated the heartbreaking and heartwarming survival stories of animals that have endured impossibly difficult circumstances and experiences. A day of high-style fashion and luxurious luncheons, animal lovers come together to support pet rescue, all leading up to the grand finale, where 1,100 guests can watch as homeless pets prowl down their very own fashion runway in the hopes of finding their forever families. a 2017 Winner!

Best Automobile Auction: Russo and Steele

Known for its exciting, high-octane flagship auction in Scottsdale every January, Russo and Steele collector automobile auction features the hottest European sports cars, American muscle cars, hotrods, customs and late model exotics. Founded in 2001, Russo and Steele also holds events in Newport Beach in June and Monterey in August during Monterey’s Historic Car Week. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Annual Valley Event: Christmas at the Princess

The AAA Five-Diamond resort, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland each holiday season, with a 6,000-sq.-ft. Desert Ice Skating Rink, a gigantic Christmas tree with 70,000 LED lights, plaza shows and tons more. The kids can snap a photo with Kris Kringle himself at Santa’s Secret Headquarters or ride aboard one of the Princess Express Trains at this magic-filled festival.

Best Children’s Theatre: Greasepaint Youtheatre 

Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale not only delivers heartfelt theater performances to young audiences across the Valley, it allows student performers to stretch their imaginations and grow within their own acting journeys through professionally-designed programming, taught by expert teachers. Greasepaint productions include “Oliver!,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Fiddler on the Roof,” “Seussical,” “Hairspray” and more. Also a 2017 Winner! 

Gallery Andrea showcases the beautiful works of owner Andrea de Kerpely-Zak’s as well as pieces from other prominent artists from around the globe. Stop by the Old Town gallery on Thursday evenings, from 7 to 9 p.m., as the gallery hosts a special showing. Also a 2017 Winner!

AFM Fave! Best Automobile Auction: Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction

The annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction sets the bar higher each year for Arizona car enthusiasts with a mind-blowing array of epic automobiles. Based in Scottsdale, Barrett-Jackson is the leader in collector car auctions and automotive events, specializing in providing the best products and services to gearheads around the world. Thus far, Barrett-Jackson has collected almost $102 million for charity, with a number of notable figures having attended past auctions, including Michael Phelps, Jay Leno and Kenny Chesney.

Best Civic Organization: Valley of the Sun Active 20-30 Club

A philanthropic, community service and social organization for professional, business-oriented women ages 21 to 39, Valley of the Sun Active 20-30 Club provides women with opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Connecting with like-minded individuals in the community to make lasting friendships, this organization plans two large events each year: Cinco de VIVA: A Valley Kids Foundation Benefit taking place May 5 and Wine Soirée in the fall.

Best Concert Venue: Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix features more than 6,800 instruments from across the world, providing a truly remarkable global and historical musical experience for visitors. Many of the instruments displayed have audio and video capabilities allowing guests to hear the unique sounds of each object. Guests can also admire the instruments of musical icons like John Lennon and Carlos Santana in the Artist Gallery. What’s more, MIM holds weekly concerts from an array of talented musicians, ranging in musical styles from Latin Caribbean to classical to jazz to traditional Irish melodies, and much more.

Best Local Artist: Antoinette Cauley Art

For Phoenix native Antoinette Cauley, art is the only thing that’s ever made sense. Drawing in her sketchpad at school, at home and at the Boys & Girls Club from an early age, Cauley has cultivated her craft over the years, now working as a full-time artist in her studio in Phoenix. Cauley’s art is reflective of the city where she grew up—the sweltering heat, the grit, the beauty, and the people, weaving vibrant colors, textures and patterns into her pieces. Rap and hip-hop culture also heavily influence her work, which often comments on social issues of the day. In addition to her work as an artist, Cauley also works to bring free, high-quality fine art, music and performance programs for youth in high-need communities as part of her J.A.R.R. Initiative, named for her late aunt. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Tattoo Artist: Jason Anthony

Jason Anthony of Golden Rule Tattoo is the best kind of geek—he’s a master at Lord of the Rings trivia, his favorite made-up sport is Quidditch, his favorite regular sport is curling, and he loves pancakes with crispy edges. A Texan living in Arizona since 1999, Anthony is also a skilled tattoo artist working at the highly esteemed Golden Rule Tattoo shop. This Phoenix based shop with two locations prides itself on exceeding industry standards for immaculate cleanliness (artists are trained in blood borne pathogens and sterilization procedures), a homey atmosphere, friendly staff and insanely talented artists.

AFM Fave! Best Photo Booth: MISGIF

Founded in February 2017, MISGIF (pronounced MIS-JIF) throws a social media spin on the traditional photo booth experience. MISGIF has two types of booths: the stationary “iBooth” and mobile “iRoam,” which throw a high-tech spin on the typical photo booth experience. The iBooth and iRoam allow guests to instantly share branded GIFs, Boomerangs and photos to their phones, e-mail and social media accounts as well as instantly access a branded online gallery that allows clients to prompt guests to visit their Web site and social media pages.

Best Museum: Children’s Museum of Phoenix

For kids and adults alike, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix offers experiences and opportunities to learn about the world around us. Located in the historic 100-plus-year-old Monroe School Building, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix focuses on learning through play, fostering kids’ natural sense of curiosity and imagination. The museum has more than 300 exhibits or “play experiences,” including the Noodle Forest (comprising thousands of pool noodles suspended from above), BlockMania! (a room with blocks of all shapes, sizes and colors), an Art Studio (where children can paint the robot a new color every day) and many more.

Best Local Band/ Musician: SoSco Duo

Founded in 2014, SoSco Duo was born out of South Scottsdale at the hands of musicians Alex Mack and Laura Strickland. The notable duo combines the unique sounds of guitar (Mack) and flute (Strickland), with more than 250 performances at weddings, special event ensembles and other happenings across the Valley, as well as Tucson and Sedona. Mack and Strickland strive to deliver their most polished performance every time, often tailoring and transcribing the specific requests of their clients. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Rooftop for Events: Hotel Valley Ho

Sleek and chic, with a dash of eccentricity (and dripping with retro vibes), Hotel Valley Ho is a gem in Old Town Scottsdale, offering a swanky suite experience, stellar spa services at VH Spa and a kick-butt brunch menu. For a truly magical event, Hotel Valley Ho’s mid-century-modern Sky Line Rooftop showcases picturesque views of Camelback Mountain and the Scottsdale city skyline, perfect for a dazzling night under the stars.

Best Special Event Venue: Warehouse215 @ Bentley Projects

Warehouse215 @ Bentley Projects is the premier space for weddings, parties, prom nights, bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah celebrations, corporate events and more. This full-service, 10,000-sq.-ft. event venue has an industrial-chic style, with gray concrete floors, brick accent walls and plenty of options for lighting. And there’s a 1,500-sq.-ft. patio to enjoy as well. Warehouse215 @ Bentley Projects’ close proximity to vibrant and bustling Downtown Phoenix makes it one of the most sought-after event venues in the Valley. Also a 2017 Winner! 

Best Theatre: TheaterWorks at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

What began as a nonprofit community theater created by passionate patrons more than 30 years ago has grown into the resident theater company at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Putting on more than 200 events each year, from live theater to jazz and classical concerts to dance performances and comedy shows, TheaterWorks is the performing arts hub of the West Valley. It still operates as a nonprofit today. Also a 2017 Winner!

Best Photo Booth: Snapbooth Entertainment

We all know that in this day and age having a photo booth at your event is a sure-fire way to take it up a notch—and Snapbooth Entertainment delivers the fastest, highest quality photo booths in the Valley. We’re talking open or enclosed booths that include a plethora of Instagram filters, slow-motion effects, Boomerang GIFs, social media sharing and more. The “Bulb Booth” is a combination of speed, quality and easy movability, making it the go-to choice for low-key gatherings, while the slick “Advanced Photo Booth” is perfect for special events, with customized branding and unlimited photo and video features. Or scale it down with the “iPad Selfie Station,” which takes up less than two square feet of floor space and can be set up with or without a backdrop.

Fast Favorites 

Best Large Scale Annual Valley Event: Scottsdale Culinary Festival,

Best Annual Valley Music Event: Decadence AZ,

Best Haunted House: Crypt Haunted Attractions,

Best Record Store: Zia Record Exchange,

Best Tattoo Artist: Alexis Kaufman,

Best Dance Studio: Ballet Arizona, balletaz.orgAlso a 2017 Winner!

Best Worship Team: Scottsdale Bible Church, scottsdalebible.comAlso a 2017 Winner!

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