Best of NH 2012 People, Culture, Arts and Music

New Hampshire is home to some of the very best galleries, musicians, artists, radio and television personalities and many more artistic and creative types.

Readers' Poll Winners
*Editor's Picks

*Art Haven: The Walpole Artisans Cooperative is a local artist-owned-and-operated salon, gallery and educational center all rolled into one amazing haven for artists and art lovers. Explore the light-filled studios, chat with artists, learn to make art yourself at a demonstration or workshop or attend one of their special events.

Art Gallery: The Gallery at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester offers exhibitions from regional, national and international artists that aim to inspire students and visitors alike. The gallery also offers a number of interesting lectures and presentations open to the public.

*Belly Dance Lessons: Professional belly dancer and instructor Ananke can teach you this traditional Middle Eastern folk dance. Ananke's classes, offered in Marlborough, Keene and Brattleboro, Vt., will show you how to perform this ancient art (it dates back some 2,000 years), give you a glimpse into Middle Eastern culture and, as an added bonus, it's a pretty decent workout.

*Community Gallery: There are plenty of places for local artists to display and sell their work, but the new Salon de Concord offers the splendid cachet and Victorian atmosphere of the Jill C. Wilson Gallery at the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord to the mix.

*Community Music Club: Yes, the name of the place is the Elysium Arts Folk Club but this welcoming and family-friendly Rollinsford arts and music venue offers much more than folk music for your listening and viewing pleasure. On any given night you'll be treated to Latin music, jazz, world music and everything else in between. The organizers also want to bring in performers of different media – poetry, dance, storytelling and visual arts – to embrace the entire artistic community.

*Cultural Center: Visit the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner for an educational and fun day for the whole family. The museum recently opened a new contemporary art gallery to showcase current Native American artwork, but it also features historic baskets, pottery, bead and quill work, archaeological artifacts and an outdoor nature trail.

*Doo Wop Band: The era of poodle skirts, beehive hairdos, shiny metal diners, boat-like cars sporting tail fins and 45s is alive and well in the music of Doo Wop quintet The Bel Airs. Performances are great for all ages – Those "of a certain age" will remember songs like "Come Go With Me" by the Del-Vikings, "In the Still of the Night" by the Five Satins and "Silhouettes" by the Rays- and younger audiences will recognize the music from shows like "Glee" or "Jersey Boys."

*Free Classical Music: The First Church (UCC) Nashua may not be the only place you'll find a first-rate choir performing exceptional classical choral arrangements, but it's definitely the only place around with a "dancing" conductor. Minister of Music Joseph Olefirowicz recently became a YouTube sensation with his impromptu dancing during a performance of "Candide." (Click here to read the Blips interview with Joseph Olefirowicz)

*Funky Cover Band: There are lots of great cover bands in the state, but not many can do justice to KC and the Sunshine Band, Marvin Gaye, Heart and the Grateful Dead in the same set and get tweens and grannies alike out on the dance floor. Bling Cherry covers everything from Abba to Captain & Tennille to create a disco/funk/soul/rock sound you definitely won't hear anywhere else.

*Genre-less Band: The Tan Vampires is one of those rare bands that resist easy classification. Based in Dover, the group has been compared to Radiohead, Wilco, Modest Mouse, Bon Iver, Local Natives and Death Cab for Cutie, but their sound is entirely their own – you've just got to hear it to understand. The year 2012 started off with a pretty impressive bang with a performance at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

*Hard Rock Band: Storming out of New Hampshire's quaint Seacoast comes Supermachine, the band with teeth-rattling rumble-in-your-chest bass, the loudest drums, intense hook-laden riffs and vocals provided by "fire-slingin'" vocalist David Nebbia. Guitarist Jay Fortin and bassist Paul Jarvis are both founding members of Scissorfight and are joined by Nebbia and drummer Mike "Mick" McNeil. Find them on Facebook or download their album "Harder Than Soft".

*Hidden Retreat: There's much more to do at Star Island (owned and operated since 1915 by the nonprofit Star Island Corporation) than just swim and enjoy scenery. From June through September at this piece of the Isles of Shoals you can attend conferences that range from writing residencies and painting to spiritual topics and natural history. A short boat ride just a few miles off shore from Portsmouth transports you to a rustic and rugged world where you can leave technology behind to learn, grow and relax in a picturesque setting.

*Ikebana Sensei: Antoinette Drouart of Ikebana Flower in Nashua teaches the art of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) at her Main Street shop. With her extensive training in Japan and her compassionate teaching skills, her students feel success with every lesson and learn to view beauty in new ways.

*Jazz Lounge: Concord finally has its very own and very cool jazz lounge – The Purple Pit Jazz Club. Established by two friends, bass player Steve Guerrera and guitarist Tom LeMieux, the doors open at 7 p.m., shows start at 8 p.m., the liquor is BYOB (coffee and soft drinks are available) and the very affordable cover charges vary from $10-$12.

*Low-Power, High-Impact FM: As the radio waves are increasingly controlled by a handful of media brokers, the low-power stations are gaining clout as the local voices of their communities. Case in point is WNHN 94.7, which offers "news, views and blues" to the Greater Concord area. Most of the views at this point are unabashedly liberal featuring the always-entertaining delivery of Arnie Arnesen with fellow lefty pundits Liz Hager and Burt Cohen. The music is eclectic but listenable and don't miss the state's only program of Broadway show tunes and news about local theatre, "Overtures and Encores," each Sunday morning.

NH Celebrity: What can we say? Adam Sandler will always be New Hampshire's Golden Boy. The famous comedian prefers to keep a low profile, but he'll occasionally return to his home city of Manchester and Central High School for various charity endeavors.

NH Chef: Chef Michael Buckley has spent 20 years redefining the meaning of high-quality dining. His food can be enjoyed at MT's and Surf in Nashua, Surf and Surf Sushi Bar in Portsmouth and Buckley's in Merrimack.

NH Radio Morning Show: This is the third consecutive win for Greg and The Morning Buzz on WHEB 100.3 and WGIR 101.1. Greg Kretschmar and his crew entertain and inform morning drivers from 5:30 a.m.-10 a.m.

NH Radio Station – AM: WGIR 610 is the place to tune in for Fisher Cats games and news radio. The local show, hosted by New Hampshire's Paul Westcott, airs from 6 a.m.-9 a.m. Syndicated programs include "The Rush Limbaugh Show" and "The Sean Hannity Show."

NH Radio Station – FM: Billed as "New England's Best Country," tune into 97.5 WOKQ for all country music all the time and in the mornings for the Best of NH award-winning The Morning Waking Crew.

NH Radio Talk Show: "The Exchange" with Laura Knoy on NHPR has won its fair share of Best of NH awards over the years. This ever-popular show is New Hampshire's only daily call-in program dedicated to news and public affairs.

TV News Anchor: Erin Fehlau is a seven-time Best of NH winner. Your favorite anchor joined the WMUR news team in 2001 and has won a National Clarion Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Journalism.

TV News Reporter: WMUR's Ray Brewer is definitely a familiar face here in New Hampshire. Brewer has nabbed the top spot in Best of NH voting since 2005.

TV Sports Anchor: Jamie Staton of WMUR has won a Best of NH award since we began our annual list 11 years ago. In addition to his job as sports director and sports reporter, Staton is involved with numerous local charities and events.

*Public Art Project: No, monsters are not attacking Rochester – the creatures you see around town are the fantastical creations made by juried artists and two local student groups as a part of "The Mythology of Rochester" walking tour. The artists were tasked with dreaming up creatures based upon historical people, natural land formations and area landmarks. The pieces will be on view in and around Rochester until November 3.

*Puppet Theater: Strafford-based Perry Alley Theatre co-founders Andrew and Bonnie Periale have been delighting audiences with imaginative and zany performances for more than 20 years. This Emmy-nominated duo have performed their fresh takes on classic tales such as "Tom Thumb," "Snow White," "The Princess and the Pea" and many more in regional and national festivals and at prestigious venues such as the Smithsonian.

*Restoration Project: Just for the name alone you have to root for Niobe and the Great Wall of Sandwich as the most wondrous historical restoration project of the year. The seven-foot-tall zinc statue of Niobe, whom the gods punished for hubris, was originally purchased by industrial magnate Isaac Adams and placed on a pedestal on a massive mile-long, shoulder-height wall of split granite that he had built in 1875. The statue toppled and broke during a storm in 1941 and languished in a heap of shards beneath a manure pile. She was fully restored last year and this May, with great pomp, was restored to her pedestal upon the Great Wall of Sandwich.

At Rocking Horse Studio
Photo by P.T. Sullivan

*Rural Recording Studio: Rocking Horse Studio is a first-class recording studio that offers the best in recording and audio production. The finest equipment, rooms designed by renowned acoustician Michael Blackmer, a skilled house band and a crop of up-and-coming performers all point to big city bells and whistles, but this studio is set on a farm with open pastures and apple trees in rural Pittsfield. This is truly a New Hampshire recording studio.

*Unlikely Jazz Venue: Follow the smooth strains of jazz to Pitman's Freight Room in downtown Laconia. This unassuming building is a freight depot-turned-function room that also happens to host jazz concerts in between weddings and banquets. Musicians from all over the Northeast, including Boston and New York City, perform each Thursday night starting at 7:15 p.m. At just $12 per ticket and BYOB only, this is quite the musical bargain.

Weatherperson: Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa got his start at WMUR back in 1998 doing weekend weather and now sets his alarm for 1 a.m. so he can bring you the weather on "News 9 Daybreak" and again at noon.

*Writers' Mixer: The Writers' Night Out events hosted by the New Hampshire Writers' Project are warm and friendly gatherings where writers can discuss current projects, what they're reading, where they plan on submitting work, life and all things literary. The events are held the first Monday of each month in various locations.


Categories: Best of NH Winners, Things to Do