Best Of 2021

Tony Krol

As we interviewed Tampa Bay’s Black artists for our Spring Arts Preview, Tony Krol’s name kept coming up. Krol worked with several Black artists in 2020, created murals with them, provided space for them to show their work, and brought them into conversations about curation. The collaborations introduced Tampa Bay to the Black Activist Photographers and New Roots Art Collective. They brought us Tampa’s Black Lives Matter street mural, “Cultural Currency” at Peninsularium, and “Black Storm” at Cafe Hey. Krol knows that Tampa’s diversity is one of its greatest assets, and he’s making sure that diversity is well-represented in Tampa’s art galleries and streets.

Elizabeth Brincklow

Brincklow was born with an unfair advantage. You see, her mother Martha taught “arts and ideas” to generations of students at Dunedin High School. This cultural cocoon launched her to the FSU School of Theatre and the study of mime in Paris. Imaginative gigs in D.C. and NYC forged her keen skills. But the trail she’s blazed across disciplines with major artists over the past three decades since returning to Pinellas County is unmatched. She strategically developed St. Pete’s cultural scene, crafted Creative Pinellas’ grants program and shepherded Dunedin’s Public Art Master Plan and implementation of significant installations.

Scott and Patti

Both Scott Daniel and Matthew McGee are award-winning performers. Their natural gifts are on display for all to see, indeed they’ve long established Tampa Bay street cred as versatile musical theater actors. But there’s a special alchemy in their charming “mother and son” act—a warmth and affection that transcends a glib description. The song lists and mashups are consistently clever, as is the banter between numbers. And Daniel always dresses the duo in glitzy costumes while outfitting McGee with perfect bouffant wigs to complete his “Patti” persona. Each new show at theaters across the region is eagerly anticipated.

See all the winners from Best of the Bay 2021

St. Pete Pride’s Arts and Qulture

For some, this year’s re-imagined St. Pete Pride felt like a consolation prize. Not for me. Breaking the annual celebration into a series of smaller, themed events inspired Tampa Bay to celebrate queerness in new and exciting ways, like honoring Black, queer culture on Juneteenth.

Macy Higgins and Emiliano Settecasi’s Strawberry Room at Fairgrounds St. Pete

Tampa Bay artists Macy Higgins and Emiliano Settecasi bonded over strawberries early in their relationship. One of their first dates was to Parkesdale Farms in Plant City. They’ve attended the Florida Strawberry Festival together every year since. In 2020-2021, the artist couple turned their shared love of strawberries into some of the best art I’ve seen all year. With its folksy picnic scene, strawberry throne, and decadent desserts, Higgins’ and Settecasi’s strawberry room at Fairgrounds St. Pete looks good enough to eat.

Mickett-Stackhouse “Expanding Waters” Science Talks

Artist duo Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse wanted to do more than just reflect Florida’s beauty in “Expanding Waters” at Creative Pinellas. They wanted to help preserve that beauty as well. Here in Florida, that means doing something about climate change. Mickett interviewed local scientists, environmentalists and clean energy advocates on the subject. The “Expanding Waters” science talks were both illuminating and terrifying. And they’re still available on Creative Pinellas’ Facebook page if you haven’t seen them yet.

Skyway 2020/21

A collaborative exhibition involving 48 artists in four museums across three counties would be a major undertaking in the best of times, but to have to postpone it because of the pandemic, then remount it successfully almost a year after it was first scheduled with all of the participants still on board? Now that’s an achievement — and it made this thoughtfully curated showcase of local artists that much more impressive. Kudos to the MFA, USF’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Ringling for keeping the spirit of cooperation alive.

See all the winners from Best of the Bay 2021

Cam Bertrand

Meet the old boss… same as the new boss. Last year’s Best Comedian winner claims the title again, and he deserves it. In a challenging time for all live performances, Bertrand hit the road, performing all over the country as an established headliner. He frequently takes locals with him as well, with a pay-it-forward philosophy that gives others a chance to get in front of different crowds in different states. And to top it off, he impressed a national audience on “America’s Got Talent” this year, earning four enthusiastic “Yes” votes from the celebrity panel. A video clip of his AGT set earned more than a million views before it even aired on television. And we’re sure there’s more laughs to come, so catch him locally if you can.

See all the winners from Best of the Bay 2021

Side Splitters

Not only is Side Splitters attracting top national acts to its location on Dale Mabry, it’s now doing it at The Grove in Wesley Chapel. As businesses struggled to keep their doors open, Side Splitters expanded, meaning new opportunities for locals and more acts coming to the area. And Side Splitters takes care of its own. When Rahn Hortman's daughter had medical issues, the club rallied around him with a benefit show that saw them donate not just ticket sales, but food and drink proceeds as well. That deserves an award by itself, but the rest of its accomplishments are pretty cool, too.

de Bine Brewing Company

It’s an accomplishment just keeping an open mic going, but the Palm Harbor Brewery’s s thriving. Run by BOTB-alum Matt Fernandez, each week features top local talent and plenty of up-and-comers. The audience appreciates the lineup, and the comedians appreciate that the signup list is done exclusively on social media. No fighting for a clipboard, no pouting over when they go up; it runs smoothly. Keep in mind that it is an open mic. It’s new material, weird material, and often bad material. Like all open mics, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. But the mic itself has become a Wednesday night ritual for many local comedians. Not many mics can say all that.