We spend a lot of time in The Stranger's offices arguing about art. We argue about all kinds of things at The Stranger, but art in particular makes us crazy. And it gets so little attention from mainstream culture. The Genius Awards are about changing that. Every year, The Stranger's critics set out to make a list of the 15 best artists in the city. We usually start with about 50 names—artists whose work blew our minds recently, artists whose work blew our minds a long time ago but who made such a mess we're still cleaning it up, artists who make us laugh, artists who transport us through grief, artists who make us want to rip off our clothes and run into the wilderness screaming at the sky. There are very few limitations: The Genius Awards celebrate artists at all stages of their careers. The only rule is: We call attention to artists who haven't already been recognized with a Genius Award. And who live here. And who are great. They have to be great.

It's not easy getting our music critics to agree with our book critic, or our film critics to agree with our art critic, or our theater critics to agree with each other. Selecting nominees for Genius Awards is a months-long process. If you read The Stranger's reviews and profiles week in and week out, you'd be able to make some educated guesses, but we conduct our deliberations in secret, far away from any possibility of eavesdropping. This year, we deliberated in a plywood room dangling from a crane in South Lake Union, which had a lovely view of Lake Union, although it gave Emily Nokes vertigo. Below, you'll find links to photos and profiles of the 15 most fascinating artists in the city right now, some of whom have never been the center of attention like this, all of whom deserve Genius Awards.

Later this summer at the Frye Art Museum, our critics will interview each of these finalists live onstage. (Get your tickets here—last summer they sold out quickly.) In the fall, everyone who's ever won a Genius Award—the League of Geniuses, if you will—will vote on this year's winners. On October 18, The Stranger will throw a huge, drunken party for all 15 finalists at the Moore Theatre, with the Seattle Rock Orchestra and other live performances, and five of the finalists (one from each category) will go home with $5,000 each, no strings attached.


Glenn Rudolph

C. Davida Ingram

Emily Gherard


Jerick Hoffer aka Jinkx Monsoon

Valerie Curtis-Newton

The Satori Group


Shin Yu Pai

Gary Groth

G. Willow Wilson


Industrial Revelation

Amber Kai Morgan and Garrett Kelly

Erik Blood


Bob Nelson

Paul Eenhoorn

Drew Christie

Since 2003, the Stranger Genius Awards have poured more than a quarter of a million dollars into Seattle's art landscape—$280,000 shoved into the pockets of local artists. If you would like to help Seattle arts thrive, make a donation at thestranger.com/genius.

Thanks! See you at the Frye, and check out the rest of our A&P offerings right here!


The Stranger recommended

And don't forget to check out the A&P summer calendars:

Visual Art



Classical Music and Opera

Readings and Lectures



A&P cover art by Matthew Hollister (matthewhollister.com).