Best of NH 2015 Arts, Culture & People

Discover local bands, art galleries, music and performing arts venues and much more in this section of Best of NH 2015
From left: Editor's Pick the Bernsen Gallery in Ashland (photo courtesy of the Bernsen Gallery), Editor's Pick 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, Theatre/Performing Arts Venue Readers' Poll Winner the Palace Theatre in Manchester (photo courtesy of the Palace Theatre) and a little red figurine from Editor's Pick Studio 550's "Monsters on the Loose" community event in Manchester (photo courtesy of Studio 550).


Art Hub: It’s been years in the making, but 3S Artspace in Portsmouth is now open, providing a performance venue, art gallery, affordable artist studios and restaurant to help spur the growing arts community. The non-profit alternative arts organization invites “unbounded risk-taking” in the creation of art and how we experience it. After just a few months in operation, the calendar of events is quickly filling up. The mid-size, flexible performance venue is the only one of its kind in the area. 

The Best Band in NH: This year, to help discover the state’s best band we partnered with the folks who operate one of the state’s premier music venues — Bank of NH Pavilion (formerly Meadowbrook). After an extensive social media campaign in which nearly 1,000 voters narrowed dozens of great groups down to just a few, a poll of a team of expert music lovers (including our esteemed editor) gave the title Best Band in NH to Pardon the Spins from Plymouth. This outstanding seven-piece alternative rock band has an avid following that’s about to skyrocket since they’ll be appearing at our Best of NH Party on June 16 and opening for one of the mainstage acts at the pavilion this summer.

DIY Art Studio: Unleash your inner artist at Studio 550 on Elm Street in Manchester. Haven’t made “art” since you were a kid? No worries. Sign up for one of the many fun classes that range from beginners’ stained glass to weaving. Take your special someone on a unique outing at one of the weekend Date Nights, where you’ll create a piece of pottery on the wheel together. Don’t scoff — after all, It worked for Swayze and Moore in “Ghost.” By the way, on August 22-23, you can participate in Studio 550’s “Monsters on the Loose” hunt. Little red clay figurines like the one pictured above will be cleverly hidden throughout Manchester with various prizes awarded to finders.

Doo Wop Band: The sound of classic doo wop is unmistakable: soaring harmonies, unreachable notes transcended. But usually what you get today is a parody of the original. Not so with the Rockin Daddios. This four-man group is like an audio time machine, perfectly capturing the brilliant sound and goofy romantic attitudes of those street-corner crooners from another age.

Hard Rock Haven: The Queen City has its crown — a band of nightspots circling Elm Street and the Millyard — and one of the jewels is pure hard rock. The Jewel Nightclub on Canal Street has turned up the volume on local entertainment, featuring one of the best sound systems (and lights to match) in New England and featuring monsters of hard rock (and their descendants) like Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Michael Sweet of Stryper. Bang head here.

Hula Hooper: As the daughter of noted painters (her mother painted the rides at Coney Island) who raised her in the artistic haven of New York City’s Greenwich Village, Nicole Colindres was born to dance to her own tune. Also known as Nico Flow Star, her form of artistic expression is the hula hoop. Through her hauntingly beautiful and astonishing performances, workshops, and her Suddha Studio in Meredith, where she teaches pilates and yoga along with hoop dance and aerial arts, she brings her spirituality and passion for hooping to the community literally full circle. Experience her exceptional artistry, athleticism, skill and synchronicity at the New England Flow Fest at Owl’s Landing in Holderness Aug. 6-9.

Jazz Queen: The music of Joan Watson Jones comes from deep in her soul and resonates in the hearts of appreciative audiences. She experienced the Harlem Renaissance as the daughter of a dancer, who performed at Paris’ Moulin Rouge and the Apollo Theatre, and a physician, who co-founded the first clinic in Harlem run exclusively by African-Americans and treated Billie Holiday. An expressive vocalist with a natural sense of swing, Joan’s voice caresses each melody like satin. Catch her weekly live show “The Jazz Room” on Internet radio and check her website for local gigs or to book the JWJ ensemble for events.

Magic Show: Stage magic is about awesome spectacles but the real active ingredient is wonder. Sometimes that’s best when it’s produced up close and delivered personally. Andrew Pinard’s Discovering Magic has enough “wow” moments to keep everyone excited, but it provides an intimate connection between magician and audience where wonders never cease. It’s also New England’s only one-man sleight-of-hand show. Find him at The Players Ring in Portsmouth or at Red River Theatres in Concord or at

New Community Monument: Running the length of Chestnut Street is a newly-dedicated public park of contemplation and reverence that honors 200 Africans and African-descended people whose remains in decaying wooden coffins were discovered in 2003 to be buried in unmarked graves under the street. A 1705 map shows the grave site that’s now called the African Burying Ground. A May sacred ceremony reinterred the remains and unveiled new work by famed artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows. The site is the only known African burying ground in New England dating to the 1700s and is an important and powerful part of New Hampshire, African-American and American history.

New Music Venue: Riverwalk Café & Music Bar in Nashua is more than a coffee house. Sure, they roast their own fair trade coffee and bake up nice treats to complement, but in the evening the tables are turned. Find a fully stocked bar offering top-shelf cocktails and an ambitious schedule for live music. Traveling groups have a cover charge, but on open mic nights your waitress will soon enough be your chanteuse.

New Performance Space: Henniker is famous for being unique and its resident New England College has many of its own singularities. To showcase their role as a civic and cultural center (admittedly out in the sticks), they’ve opened a unique classroom/concert hall/performance space at 62 N. Main St. in Concord. As the Capitol City prepares for a brand new downtown, this is just the kind of thing that will give people who come for the streetscapes something different to stay and see.

NH Legends: Local boys made good doesn’t begin to sum it up for Recycled Percussion. Band leader Justin Spencer has parlayed their success as a touring phenom plus a near-win on “America’s Got Talent” into a virtual industry of their trademark “junk rock.” The band still returns to NH regularly to sell out shows. This year, their 20th anniversary, saw them return in glory with a bigger/faster/awesomer show than ever. For these local heroes, the beat really does go on.

North Country History Preservation: Two years ago, the Museum of the White Mountains opened its doors with a mission to preserve and promote the history, culture and environmental legacy of the White Mountains region. Finally, the region that’s so important to the state had a vehicle to provide a deeper understanding of its many aspects. Affiliated with Plymouth State University, the museum has mounted multi-disciplinary exhibitions, both actual and virtual, and acquired and catalogued searchable collections. It’s perfectly located in Plymouth, the gateway to the White Mountains, making it easy to stop by on your way to enjoy the area.

Renaissance Man: As the world probes deeper into the new millennium, R.P. Hale of Concord continues to explore millennia gone by.  He’s an engraver, calligrapher, harpsichord builder, astronomer and historian. His website is still “under construction” according to LinkedIn (probably taking a long time to engrave), but you can catch him at Barley House in Concord most Tuesday nights playing hammer dulcimer for their Celtic circle.

Scrap Iron Art: Where others see a rusty tractor seat, bent harrow blade or obsolete engine part, Sculptor Bill Bernsen at the Bernsen Gallery in Ashland sees flowing vines, bursting blossoms, characterful human forms and cavorting animals. His sculpture recently donated to the New Hampshire Veterans Home was inspired by the Biblical verse about beating swords into plowshares.

Summer Music Festival: The Monadnock Music Festival kicks off its 50th season on July 10 with the first part of an ambitious five-year series of the complete Beethoven symphonies. The celebration of classical music continues through August 7 and takes place at various venues in Keene, Milford, Peterborough, Deering, Nelson, Harrisville, Jaffrey Center, Wilton and Greenfield.

Tiny Theater: The Little Church Theater in Holderness is a tiny, 19th-century Catholic chapel that has been turned into a miniature palace for theatrical arts, taking on challenging productions and tapping into local talent. For example, Oscar-winner Ernest Thompson first directed his own iconic play “On Golden Pond” there — right on the shores of Squam, the lake made famous by the movie version of his play.

Categories: Best of NH Winners