Best Local Painter: Melanie Blackerby
-Blackerby came to painting late. The Mobile native first taught English at Baker High School for six years.
“I stopped to have three sons, back to back to back and instead of going back to the classroom, I started painting professionally,” Blackerby said.
Nine years later, she has a gallery and studio at 5452 Old Shell Road, but said most of her sales come from art fairs, shows and exhibits across the southeast.
“The Nappies have their finger on the pulse of Mobile. Plus, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, which is great. I was really excited,” Blackerby said.
She doesn’t chalk up the victory to fate completely.
“I told somebody my mom must have created a bunch of email addresses or something,” Blackerby said, laughing.
Best Local Sculptor: Bruce Larsen
-If Nappie Awards were rings, Larsen would have every digit of one hand covered. This category began in 2015 and the Eastern Shore artist has won every one of them. Should we just name it after him already?
Best Local Graphic Design Artist: Andy Scott
-Scott had a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Alabama and ample design experience when one of his brothers gifted him a vintage painters box, complete with tools, paints, sketches and personal mementos from the original owner.
Drawn to classic style, Scott purchased a 1940s book on hand-painting signs and dove in. What emerged – New Hand Signs – is a throwback to a pre-computer era. Sometimes it is the gilded and pinstriped styles of the 19th century, sometimes the 20th century’s modern sensibilities.
A 2018 Nappies finalist, his painstaking and professional handiwork adorns businesses such as Chaleur Coffee, The Merry Widow, El Papi, The Haberdasher, Nixon’s and many others.
Best Mixed Media Artist: Abe Partridge
-Best known for his music, Abe Partridge earned a reputation for visual work awash in edgy takes. Pressed for definition, his style is informed by an “outsider” school associated with the South. His work can be found in the Urban Wild show at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center.
Best Art Gallery: Ashland Gallery
-This midtown shop on Old Shell Road placed second in 2008 and 2010 then won in 2014. It’s a longtime favorite not only to the residents of the tony neighborhood with which it shares a name, but also cognoscenti of varied creative genres. In addition to selling visual art, they offer framing services and have hosted events like book signings.
Best Museum: History Museum of Mobile
-This showplace for Azalea City’s memories placed second in ’08 and ’14, then won in ’16. Their current featured exhibit – “Sensational ’60s” – was reviewed in the June 26 issue of Lagniappe.
Best Theatre Group: The PACT (Facility for Performing Arts Creative Training)
-Founded in 2018, PACT is the latest stagecraft and the performing arts training ground for youngsters. The facility near Cottage Hill and Azalea educates students from first through 12th grades and presents four musicals per year, staged at The Steeple on St. Francis. They boast a 13-person staff specializing in acting, dance and music along with technical theater.
Best Play or Performance of the Year: “Young Frankenstein” by Joe Jefferson Players
-See special Nappie section for an interview with director Gene Murrell.
Best Local Actor: Jay Ramsay
Although 12-year-old Ramsay has only been in theatre for three years, he’s ascended quickly. He rose through a national field of 6,000 entrants and 700 nominees to be chosen for Disney’s “Moana” choreography DVD. It was filmed in New York City and will be distributed internationally.
His first play was Sunny Side Theater’s “Willie Wonka” then moved on to “Stuart Little” and “The Little Mermaid.” He had the title role in UMS-Wright’s middle school production of “Peter Pan” and will play Lord Farquaad in their upcoming “Shrek” rendition.
“I’d like to thank my mom for taking me to all the practices, my grandmother for getting all the ads for me, my family for coming to watch my shows and all my co-stars and my directors, Chris Paragone and Lauren Westbrook,” Ramsay said.
Best Local Comedian: Kelly Teague
-Teague joined Improv Comedy Underground as soon as he moved to Mobile. He is the cofounder and director of the Chickasaw Civic Comedy Players, Chickasaw Civic Theater’s house improv team, and he aspires to bring professional, touring improv companies to the Mobile area.
Best Local Dancer: Carol Odom
-Odom is a repeat winner from 2018. Currently, the 17-year-old is in Seattle at Pacific Northwest Ballet for the fourth time, her second summer intensive of the summer. She returns to Mobile on Aug. 10.
“She has participated in Mobile Ballet Academy’s day program since Fall 2018, which provides her with extra training,” her mother, Ellen Odom, said. “Having training in Mobile now is a really amazing, wonderful thing.”
Carol’s mother was taken aback by the second Nappies win.
“[Mobile Ballet Artistic Director] Katia [Garza] was also up for it, so I kind of assumed she would win it. I have a big family. That’s how you explain it,” Odom said, laughing.
Best Local Theatrical Singer: Rainey Tanner
-This 17-year-old UMS-Wright senior cited 43 productions under her belt after starting in third grade. She has studied voice under Sherry Duncan for years.
Her most recent performances were in PACT productions “Freaky Friday” and “Guys and Dolls” and in UMS-Wright’s “The Addams Family.” She noted appearances in Chickasaw Civic Theater’s “The Little Mermaid,” along with Joe Jefferson Playhouse’s “Fiddler On the Roof” and “Sweeney Todd” as particularly memorable.
“I’d like to thank everyone that helped me, my parents and my brother who was really supportive. Also [PACT Director] Jacob Rowe, who gave me a bunch of amazing opportunities, and Amy True, my acting coach at The PACT,” Tanner said.
Tanner is considering attending the University of Montevallo to pursue a major in psychology with a minor in vocal performance or musical theater.
Best Arts Event: LoDa Artwalk
-Another perennial champion since 2015. Tailor-made for a city that loves a street party, this 14-year-old event has weathered storms, heat waves and wintry weather to emerge as a surefire downtown gathering.
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