The awards show brought out a number of people from around the state, as well as state legislators, in support of Ohio arts, as well as the winners. Free was the only winner from the southeastern part of the state.
Gov. Ted Strickland was on hand to give the opening remarks. Senate President Bill Harris and Speaker of the House Jon Husted presented the awards to each of the recipients.
"Each winner has a unique role. They have collectively made a significant contribution to Ohio's diverse tradition of art," said Gov. Strickland. "Everyone who has received an award has demonstrated excellence. I am inspired the artists have worked hard for this great state of ours, and I deeply appreciate the passion they have for the arts."
There were 69 nominations submitted by individuals and organizations throughout Ohio for the seven categories.
There were two Individual Artist awards given. One was presented to Dr. Burton Berrman, a composer/musician from Bowling Green. The other individual artist award was present to local artist Steve Free.
Free is an Appalachian singer and songwriter, and an eight-time ASCAP award winning songwriter, with a platinum record to his name and 12 songs that have made it to national and international song charts.
"Grandpa always told me even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while - I think I found my acorn today," Free said during his acceptance speech. "I am very honored and proud to receive this award. To me, this award is important because it represents the entire area. It's like Appalachia won this award."
Other categories included Arts Administration, which was won by Marcie Goodman, executive director of the Cleveland International Film Festival. Michael Huffam, of Lima City Schools, won the Arts in Education award.
"The impact of the arts not only affects the quality of life and the quality of Ohio's economy, the arts is a major asset to attracting new jobs to our state, and ultimately to our ability to foster creativity and innovation within our people," Gov. Strickland said.
Some Scioto County residents said Free is a great role model for local children.
"Scioto County has some of the most wonderful voices in their children's choirs. To have Steve, who is one of their role models, win this award is great. Southern Ohio is a creative area where we care about the arts and hopefully, we are inspiring these young people to become the Steve Free's of the future," said Mary Boll, a K-4 teacher at Valley Local Schools.
Susan Reams of Perrysburg, was named Arts Patron of the Year, and Limited Brands of Columbus was given the award for Business Support of the Arts.
Dr. Catherine Roma, director of MUSE, Cincinnati Women's Choir, Umoja Men's Chorus and Voices of Freedom Choir of Cincinnati, was named the winner of the Community Development & Participation award.
"My charge to the people of Ohio is to continue to imagine, to create, to innovate and inspire," Gov. Strickland said.