Mercia Buck OAM says the arts are in your blood, your reason for breathing and why you get up in the morning.
It's a passion she herself feels and one that has resulted in Ms Buck being bestowed the Lake Macquarie Freeman of the City award on Tuesday night, becoming just the ninth person and second woman in the city's history to receive the accolade.
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She served as a Lake Macquarie councillor from 1991 to 2008, and has been a teacher, lecturer and arts administrator.
But despite all her achievements, Ms Buck said the Freeman honour was "absolutely overwhelming".
"It's a tribute not just to me, but to all the people who have responded to all of the initiatives we've taken in trying to develop the industry," Ms Buck said.
"You can't do anything on your own - you're relying on all the people who share the same passion."
She considers the arts as a calling, and something she has no intention to let go of.
"The arts - music or acting or whatever - they're just in your blood. It's the reason for breathing, it's the reason for getting up in the morning," she said.
"It doesn't matter what happens in life - all the hard things and all the tragedies - you've always got this thing that you love to come back to."
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser, who presented the award at a ceremony at the Multi-Arts Pavilion, mima, on Tuesday evening said Ms Buck's contribution to the city's arts was without peer.
"Creative arts in our region are so much richer thanks to Mercia's tireless dedication, but her devotion to our community extends far beyond that," Cr Fraser said.
"She led the way as a strong female voice in local government at a time when it was a very male-dominated arena. I am among many people who have always looked to her for inspiration."
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