Growing up with a Mother who was an art teacher and being happily married for 11 years to my wife who has an art degree, you would think I would have a better understanding or at least a greater appreciation for the arts.

Last week I had the newfound pleasure of attending the 23rd Annual Allentown Arts Commission Arts Ovation Awards held at the Holiday Inn Allentown Center City. From the opening performance of “Hair” presented by Dieruff High School to Allentown Central Catholic’s performance of Beauty and the Beast and Allen High School’s Canaan Days, I was truly impressed with the time and effort these students put into their craft.

My eyes are now wide open to the amount of time, energy and financial support people in Lehigh Valley dedicate to the arts. In a time of budget cuts, the arts programs and students are the ones that suffer most. Mayor Pawlowski gave a very poignant math breakdown that alluded to the fact that if every U.S. citizen was to contribute about 50¢ a year, these programs would survive. Just 50¢!

We saw video montages of a few award recipients, like Wally Ely for his book Images of America - Dorney Park, Eileen Wescoe’s heartfelt montage on how the arts have influenced her life, and lastly Shelly Brown (The State Theater) and Barry Fisher’s (WFMZ) thank-you speech for the recognition of The Freddy Awards as a remarkable live arts production. It was amazing to hear their passion for The Freddy Awards, and how it grew from a dream into an annual tradition that so many Lehigh Valley students, educators, parents and arts admirers eagerly anticipate.

So next time you see a sculpture in Trexler Park, or on the campus of Lehigh Valley Hospital, or on Hamilton Street in downtown Allentown, just think...it’s your 50 cents than can help make the difference in a Lehigh Valley high school student's life.

I, for one, have found a much greater appreciation for all that goes into making the arts plentiful in Lehigh Valley. Bring on The Freddy’s, I can’t wait. (To the sound of clapping) I congratulate everyone that contributes to the arts and the betterment of young people’s lives here in the Valley, especially you Renee. Keep doing what you are doing.

How will you contribute to the arts today?