Best of NH 2023 Art & Culture

When you're looking for a funky arts venue or a great local podcast, where do you go? To this Best of NH winners list, of course!

Editor’s Picks

YouTube Radio     

Cold River Radio ShowNorth Conway’s Cold River Radio Show has been celebrating the arts and culture of New England (with an emphasis on New Hampshire artists, authors, comics, storytellers and bands) for the last decade. Now they hope to provide the richness of their live-performance broadcasts to a growing audience, attracted by the sheer brilliance of the talent on tap, via their YouTube channel. “Lots of people say they didn’t really understand the show until they came to see it live at the theater,” says the show’s empresario and chief crooner, Jonathan Sarty. “We believe a strong YouTube channel will change that by giving people a sense of what the show is all about with our high-quality production and exciting performances.” Here’s a link to subscribe to updates when new shows are available:

Antiquarian YouTube

JeffrapsiscomThings have changed since a cameraman (almost always a man) had to skillfully crank the moving picture film at just the right speed to make a silent film. But then, as in the YouTube-saturated now, the capture of visual details was also the capture of current events, lifestyles, technology, celebrity, fashion, horror, sex and other flights of fantasy. Jeff Rapsis curates and preserves the vast array of silent films still available from the early years of last century (some just recently restored) and reveals just how rich and fascinating they still are with his improvised keyboard accompaniment and talks.

Funky Creative Space

Attachment Drift2As Portsmouth continues its inexorable climb into development, tourism and gentrification, now’s as important as ever for grassroots organizations to provide inexpensive community spaces for year-round Seacoast residents. Enter Drift Art House in Portsmouth. An offshoot of the stoner-surfer boutique retail shop The Drift Collective on Daniel Street, Drift Art House brings together community galleries (with a focus on young New England artists), artist studios and summer concerts via their backyard event space. Complete with a makeshift wooden stage, atmospheric hand-hung string lights and just enough legroom to really get to know other concert-goers (half of its charm is how small the backyard is), the whole operation feels so endearingly DIY — something Portsmouth’s in dire need of. Support local artists. Stop by Drift Art House on Fleet Street.

Radio Reporter

Todd Bookman Started With Nh Public RadioTodd Bookman started with NH Public Radio in 2009, so his name is somewhat familiar here in the Granite State, but increasingly his knack for finding important national stories with local angles has found it ringing bells in ears across the nation. Bookman’s report on a local shaman who was leading ayahuasca retreats in the woods of Canterbury hit just as interest in psychedelic therapies was peaking. His report on Rainbow Reload, a New Hampshire “LGBTQ gun club that offers experts and the gun-curious a chance to practice firearms skills in a supportive environment,” was picked up by former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson whose protestations helped to spread the story even further. Great storytelling will always find a way, and Bookman seems to be just warming up his vocal cords.

Eclectic Performance Space 

The Strand DoverThe Strand, Dover’s performing arts center on Third Street, which first opened in 1919 — is Dan Demers’ eager passion project. Reopening the space in 2015, Demers (The Strand’s board president) has injected the lofty space with heaping amounts of new life and historical reverence; screening old and new movies (including a classic horror movie marathon each October) and hosting performers of every stripe on their stage (from independent filmmakers and hypnotists to comedians, psychic mediums and musicians), The Strand embodies old-school downtown New England history. It’s a lovely community fixture that feels simultaneously fixed in the past and present, with eyes toward the future. We’re lucky to have it.

Citizen Big Band

Scott Spradling Big Band 1The Scott Spradling Big Band, a 12-piece band (w/ lots of horns!) plays tunes from Chicago, Billy Joel, Sinatra, Bublé and Huey and the News. Led by Scott Spradling, a former WMUR-TV political reporter known for his coverage of the New Hampshire Primary, this Big Band can really swing. Catch them in concert at several venues, including the Palace Theatre and Rex Theatre in Manchester. Visit their Facebook page to see where they’re playing (or have played — like our Best of NH Party last month).

Dramatic Kid Power

Tiger Theatre At Plymouth State 1TIGER Theatre at Plymouth State is here to integrate guidance, education and responsibility through their programs so that local communities don’t have to face the social issues and concerns in their schools alone. Yeah, that’s a movement we can get behind. Their performances and workshops empower young people to make good choices and help teachers
and counselors explore solutions to bullying and intolerance in their environments.

OGs of Diversity  

Nhgmc 2NH Gay Men’s Chorus has been joyously promoting acceptance and diversity for a quarter of a century. “Despite overcoming fears and doubts in its early years, when acceptance of gay people in New Hampshire was scarce, today the NHGMC is more popular than ever all over the state and beyond,” reads a recent statement, while NH Governor Christopher Sununu calls them “truly a Granite State musical treasure.” This not-for-profit musical group performs two concert series per year — a Holiday series in December and a Spring series in May. The Chorus also gives Outreach performances throughout the year at assisted living centers, at interfaith services, at sports events, for government and civic groups and at Pride events.

Ambassadors of Peace

Worldbeat Marimba Ron St Jean PhotoRandy Armstrong is one of the leading lights of the world music genre, having practically birthed it with his band Do’a back in the 1980s. That band went on to recognition from the United Nations promoting the International Year of Peace in 1986. Armstrong’s new WorldBeat Marimba project performs on handmade South African marimbas as well as Trinidad/Tobago steel pans and other exotic instruments, and it was inspired by a marimba band performance Armstong witnessed with Archbisop Desmond Tutu and his family in attendance. When even Tutu got up to dance, Armstrong commissioned a set of them from an ethnomusicologist in Cape Town. The unifying rhythm and uplifting melodies performed in them exert an influence on the mood and perhaps even the soul of listeners, drawing each one closer to the peace they possess within, beyond the reach of the clamoring world.

Readers’ Poll Winners

Art Gallery

Jackson Art Studio & Gallery



Currier Museum of Art


Music Venue (Large)

Bank of NH Pavilion


Music Venue (Small)

Tupelo Music Hall


NH Podcast

NHPR’s Bear Brook


NH Radio Morning Show

Greg and the Morning Buzz


NH Radio Talk Show

NHPR’s The Exchange


NH Radio Station

NH Public Radio


NH Sports Team

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats


TV News Anchor

Erin Fehlau, WMUR


TV News Reporter

Ray Brewer, WMUR


TV Sports Anchor

Mike Cronin, WMUR


Theater/Performing Arts Venue

The Palace Theatre


Categories: Best of NH Winners