WILD CARD – BEST ARTIST
The bright red flowers float effortlessly against a turquoise background as the corseted waif looks on pensively. It’s a scene depicted vibrantly in one of Felicia Olin’s signature paintings, and it shows why Olin was voted “best artist” as a wild card by IT readers. A reader writes: “Felicia Olin blew me away this year with her gallery show at the Robert Morris Galery downtown. Her creative expression is a treat to behold!” Evoking shades of Salvador Dali and Mark Ryden, her paintings convey profound emotion, despite the often impassive expressions on her subjects’ faces. Her style, she says, came from trusting her instincts and making art that she enjoys. “I look at everything, and I take things that I like and mesh it together,” Olin says. Her art hangs in galleries from the Hoogland Center to the Sangamo Club and more. “I think there’s just some kind of connection,” Olin says when asked why her artwork has become so popular. “I’m able to put something on the page that people just relate to.”
BEST TATTOO ARTIST
Kevin Veara, Black Moon Tattoos
1009 W. Edwards St., 793-1875
Even if you have never had any desire to have any ink inserted into your skin with a pointed instrument, we urge you to visit Kevin Veara’s Web site and look through his gallery of paintings. No sooner will the window open than you will be saying “take this sharp object, sir, and draw this bird all over my face. And let’s throw in some ear gauges while we’re at it. Rawk.” On your skin or on a canvas, his art is just that: art. Beautiful, stunning, intricate, and above all else, passionate art. A self-identified environmentalist, Veara’s work shows a keen interest in the natural world, and his bird pieces are famous. Using natural color schemes and extraordinary attention to detail, Veara is slowly wearing away most preconceived notions of tattoos and tattoo artists. One pin prick at a time.
Runner up: Jason Lee at New Age
BEST THEATRICAL PRODUCTION - MUSICAL
Fiddler on the Roof
Springfield Muni Opera
You know we are a town that loves our theater when we brave the mosquitoes to head out to the Muni in droves at least four times a year every summer. No show brought out the Off Spray-coated crowds quite like Fiddler on the Roof. Directed by Chuck Hoots, and starring Muni’s own jack-of-all-trades Steve Kaplan (he sings, he acts, he directs, he sits on the board, he drills teeth!) as Tevye, Fiddler is the classic Broadway tale of a poor milkman and his family in a 1905 Russian shtetl as he attempts to maintain his strong faith in the face of his daughters’ changing lives, while the Tsar is evicting Jews from their village. It’s a beloved story of clinging to tradition as the world around you changes.
Runner-up: The Muni’s High School Musical
BEST THEATRICAL PRODUCTION - DRAMA
As You Like It
University of Illinois at Springfield
Shakespeare’s tale of love, deception and cross-dressing has been performed many times, many ways, in many places. For the first time ever, UIS was the stage, and its students not-so-merely the players. Associate Professor of Theatre, Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson tells us that the show came about as schoolwork. “For the 2008-2009 school year, my idea was to offer, in tandem, a Shakespeare class and a Shakespeare production.” The class, “Playing Shakespeare,” was offered for the first time in the fall of 2008 and by spring, they were ready to take the stage, with Thibodeaux-Thompson encouraging his students to audition. “We had a total of 18 actors in 23 roles. Approximately 80 percent were students, with 20 percent community actors, faculty and alumni. I enjoy a mix of students and community actors. I was very proud in a lot of ways.”
Runner-up: Rod Blagojevich Superstar!
BEST HIGH SCHOOL PRODUCTION
Back to the 80s
Sacred Heart-Griffin High School
Written like a teen comedy, Back to the 80s features an array of songs more often heard on your favorite mix tape. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Come On Eileen,” and the Rick Astley 80s classic/modern-day Internet sensation “Never Gonna Give You Up” are some hits in this show, first staged in Australia in 2004. Narrated by a near-30 man waxing nostalgic on his high school years in the Me Decade, it’s fun, lively and really colorful. Neons abound. Never heard of it? Director and teacher Bill Bauser reminds us that this is nothing new for SHG. “SHG likes to do shows that are undiscovered. It was fun for the faculty and staff to work on a show with music we grew up with, and fun for the kids to discover a new decade of music they wouldn’t normally get to sing in school.”
Runner-up: Glenwood High School’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
BEST ACTIVIST CHURCH LEADER
Rev. Msgnr. John Ossola
Little Flower Catholic School
The Rev. Monsignor John Ossola wouldn’t call himself an “activist,” he says, nor does he consider himself a leader – but isn’t that what humble people always say? Serving the Church of the Little Flower and the church’s nearby school, Ossola often works with youth and has directed the diocese’s anti-abortion office, earning him the title of “best activist church leader” from IT readers. A member of the clergy for 45 years, Ossola enjoys counseling his parishioners in times of need. “I enjoy dealing with people at pivotal times in their lives,” Ossola says. “It’s so growth-fulfilling for them.”
Runner-up: John Wentz of South Side Christian Church
HARDEST WORKING LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER
Unverzagt Family Chiropractic
1329 S. Fourth St., 544-3628
Not much can ruin a relaxing weekend as easily as back pain. That’s why Stephen C. Unverzagt is happy to swing by his chiropractic clinic even after hours or on weekends to give the occasional back adjustment. Chosen by IT readers as the hardest working local business owner in Springfield, Unverzagt offers treatment for all sorts of back, neck and joint pain, as well as sports rehab, nutrition counseling and more. His comfortable office feels like a home, and his warm family is always there to make you feel welcome. He especially likes proving to suffering skeptics that chiropractic care really works. “Everyone that has come to us has stayed,” he says. And if that’s not enough, the recently-added massage therapist should have you back on your feet in no time.
Runner-up: Tracey Sims - TurnOut Movement Arts Studio
WILD CARD – BEST CHIROPRACTOR
The wild card is the peoples’ category: you told us what “best of” we missed. Stephen Unverzagt staged a write-in campaign for Best Chiropractor on Facebook, and his eager clients were more than happy to nominate him. One satisfied customer says, “Stephen Unverzagt is the best chiropractor ever….He is so good that none of my ‘old’ aches and pains hurt anymore.” Unverzagt says almost all of his clients are referrals from other clients, which just goes to show that a job well done is its own advertisement. In business since June, Unverzagt says he is glad to be serving Springfield, and he enjoys making clients feel comfortable and pain-free.
Wild Card Runner-up: Best Sandwich – Head West Sub Stop