2016 Arts Ovation Award Recipients Announced


The Allentown Arts Commission and the city of Allentown will once again celebrate the extraordinary impact of the arts on Allentown and the broader Lehigh Valley community when they present the 28th Annual Allentown Arts Ovation Awards on Tuesday, May 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Returning the ceremony to the Renaissance Hotel at PPL Center for the second year provides attendees the opportunity to enjoy the revitalized downtown, the center of an artistic community which reaches throughout the city.

“The Allentown Arts Commission believes that the arts, splendidly represented by this year’s honorees, are a major contributing factor to the current renaissance of our beloved city. Along with the amazing redevelopment efforts of both private and public entities, the arts have continued to imbue the area with a lively cultural ambience,” said Sharon Glassman, Chair of the Allentown Arts Commission. “Last year’s event, a smashing success, heralded our return to downtown. We are thrilled to once again take pride in this sparkling new city and the extraordinary artists and philanthropists who distinguish Allentown as a culturally significant community.”

Although this year’s event will again feature savory food, sparkling beverages, and first class entertainment, the Arts Ovation Committee, co-chaired by Jane Brown Heft and Susan Rutt, has made some exciting changes, including a brand new format.

“We are not only excited about the changes, but also by the quality of the numerous nominees from whom this year’s outstanding recipients were selected. The Commission looks forward to applauding their unique contributions to the vitality of our Allentown Arts scene,” said Rutt.

This year the Allentown Arts Commission will honor six recipients in six categories. In partnership with three outstanding Allentown art institutions, The Baum School of Art, Civic Theatre of Allentown, and Community Music School, the Commission and will also bestow scholarships in art, theatre, and music to students from Allentown’s high schools.

The recipients of this year’s awards are as follows: 

Outstanding Philanthropy Award: Julius and Katheryn Hommer Foundation

Julius Hommer, a tool and die maker from Newark, NJ, and his wife, Katheryn, founded Hommer Tool and Manufacturing Company in 1942.   Following her husband’s death in 1995 Katheryn, with the encouragement of her daughter and son-in-law, established the Hommer Foundation as an expression of appreciation for the many benefits they had received through the years. Katheryn died in 2001 at age 95 and the bulk of her estate went to the Foundation. In providing grants, the Foundation gives preference to organizations in northeastern Pennsylvania with particular emphasis on education and the arts, limiting its awards to organizations whose achievements provide unique and important elements for the growth and development of the communities they serve. The arts organizations in Allentown have always been held in high regard by the trustees of the Hommer Foundation. The Allentown Symphony, Art Museum, Civic Theater, Community Music School, Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, and America on Wheels are among the grantees who have been served. The Foundation believes that each of these organizations has helped sustain Allentown in the past and will play a vital role in its future growth. Peter L. Kern, Chairman of the Board of Trustees will be accepting the Award for the Foundation.

Outstanding Achievement in Performing Arts: Craig Thatcher

Craig Thatcher is a band leader (The Craig Thatcher Band-Blues/Rock/Celtic & original Roots music), an International Clinician/Ambassador for C.F. Martin & Co. of Nazareth, PA, a guitar instructor and recording artist and has worked with or opened for many great artists.. In 2015 Craig worked as co-producer & guitarist for Chilean International Artist Manuel Garcia. Also in 2015 Craig along with violinist Nyke Van Wyk wrote, performed and recorded the soundtrack for “The Dreadnought Story,” presented by Martin Guitar and released in Anaheim, CA in January, 2016.

Craig is also the leader of his own Eric Clapton musical tribute “Badge,” a retrospective of EC’s career beginning with the Yardbirds. His band also presents other “musical tribute” shows including Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, the Allman Brothers Band and Cream. Craig has performed in one capacity or another in nearly every U.S. state as well as more than 35 different countries. Craig and his band appear on a regular basis in a wide variety of theatres, performing arts venues, and festivals. Craig is also the originator and host of the PBS television series “Behind The Guitar” on which he presents and interviews internationally known guitarists in front of a live audience in the WLVT Channel 39 PBS studios.

Outstanding Educator in the Arts: Lawrence Flynn

Lawrence Flynn has been working to promote personal growth within each of the many young people he reaches in the Allentown District. Each week Larry meets with hundreds of students at several Allentown elementary schools, inspiring them with amazing energy and sincere passion. Larry dedicates many hours to create after school and summer performing ensemble and practice opportunities for the students. These ensembles include the Double String Quartet, City Orchestra School, O2, Summer Strings, and City Strings. Larry has served as the Music Director for the ASD Foundation’s High Notes Gala since its inception in 2012. Larry was the Pit Director for Dieruff High School’s production of “In the Heights.” Larry’s remarkable dedication to his students has distinguished him as an outstanding educator.

Outstanding Service Award: The Office of Community Engagement at Muhlenberg College

The Office of Community Engagement at Muhlenberg College enrolls students, employees and local communities in partnerships intended to catalyze personal, institutional, and community change. Through programs in literary, performing, and visual arts, Muhlenberg students engage regularly with local communities in creative activities. Youth work with students to achieve mutually generated goals, share stories and learn from one another. Programs both on campus and within local communities create shared spaces in which groups can connect through the arts. The Office of Community Engagement believes that all of our communities benefit when people are able to share their voices through creative expression and our organization is honored to be a part of making that work happen. Beth Halpern will be accepting the award.

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Arts: Femi Johnson

Femi J. Johnson, born in Manhattan, NY, is a primarily self-taught artist raised in Easton from age ten. A two-year study in studio fine art in Hudson Valley, NY, helped Femi stay engaged with his contemporary and modernist views in art. Femi works predominantly in the mediums of collage painting and drawing. Collage painting gives meaning to a disjointed perspective on life while incorporating different media to get out the feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Femi has shown regionally and internationally, with work in corporate and private collections. Recent shows include Santa Bannon Fine / Art at ArtsQuest Banana Factory, Lafayette College Experimental Printmaking Institute, Northampton Community College Communications Hall, Nurture Nature Center, Red Barn with Barnaby Ruhe, and the Pomfret Club in Easton. Femi relocated back to the Lehigh Valley three years ago from Hudson Valley, NY, and currently works out of Expressions Studio at 542 Hamilton Street in Allentown.

Outstanding Achievement in the Literary Arts: Janice Altieri

Janice Altieri is a proud William Allen High School Class of ’82 Canary and current Allentown School District Librarian at Union Terrace and McKinley Elementary schools.  She has been fascinated with history since her childhood days spent reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books at Muhlenberg Elementary School.  Thanks in part to her father’s tales of his youth spent selling dandelion greens downtown and skipping school to attend the Great Allentown Fair in 1920’s, she has always felt a sense of fun and belonging in her hometown.  As a teacher, she is keenly aware of her students’ desire for roots, for a connection to a home base. Helping children to use their imaginations, to laugh, and to learn about their world brings her great joy. She was named the 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies. On the home front, she and her husband, Joe, have raised three terrific children.  One more year and all three will be college graduates!  The family lives in a great old Craftsman bungalow in Allentown’s West End that has kept them busy with home repairs and renovation for over 23 years.

Emerging Artist Award: Keith Garubba

Keith Garubba is an extraordinary artist. As a creative practitioner working in print media, multimedia installations, and interactive artworks, Garubba takes a multi-faceted approach to investigating questions regarding beliefs and myths in science and art. Garubba earned a degree from Keystone College in LaPlume, Pennsylvania as the Outstanding Graduate in 2010. As an artist member of Boxheart Gallery in Pittsburgh, he began exhibiting throughout the state. In 2014, he earned his Masters in Fine Arts from Ohio State University.

Keith is currently a member of the faculty at the Baum School of Art, where he teaches children’s classes, comic art to high school students, and outreach programming in Allentown elementary schools, bridging science and art in 5th grade classrooms. Garubba exhibits his work regularly in the Lehigh Valley, both independently and as a member of the Printmakers Society of the Lehigh Valley, an organization bringing together an active selection of the Lehigh Valley’s best printmakers. Emerging into his career as an artist and teacher, he is excitedly pursuing new adventures in art. 

The student scholarship awardees are as follows:

Dieruff High School: Malik Smith (Art), Prescious Correa (Theatre), and Dedrik Ramos (Music); Allen High School: Belicia Kingsley (Art), Claire Patterson (Theatre), Anthony Richards (Music). Central Catholic High School: Rachel Myers (Art), Abby Garza (Theatre), and Johnny Tran (Music).

Individual tickets for the 2016 Arts Ovation Awards ceremony are available for $60/person. A special “Under 21” student ticket is available at $30/person. Tickets may be reserved online at CivicTheatre.com/ArtsOvation or by calling 610-791-3497 by May 4th. Sponsorships are also available.



Information provided to The Valley Ledger by:

Mayor’s Office
435 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18101