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Pittsburgh Opera's Recognition Of Corbett Stirs Controversy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The internationally acclaimed Pittsburgh Opera now finds itself the center of controversy.

"We are a struggling arts organization like everybody else," says Christopher Hahn, the Opera's director. "We desperately need support and funding."

To raise money, a parking garage in the Strip District is undergoing a makeover for a swanky $750-a-ticket event to honor Governor Corbett and his wife, Susan, chair of the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts.

On a makeshift stage, the governor and his wife will receive from the Opera a Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that some say is undeserved but which the Opera says recognizes the governor's effort to stop funding cuts for the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts.

Hahn says Corbett blocked House Republicans from cutting the Council's budget by 70 percent.

"That is something that we felt we needed to thank him and the first lady for because I think it is very important work," says Hahn, "and it allows us along with other things to keep our ticket prices low and to do a lot of arts education, music education in the schools ourselves."
But University of Pittsburgh Professor Jessie Ramey, author of the blog Yinzercation, says the award is misplaced.

"I was really outraged that they would make this what is really a disappointing choice to recognize Governor Corbett who has actually devastated our public education system."

Ramey, whose blog protest has had 13,000 hits, warns, "We are gutting our arts education programs all across the state."

As for the 400 attending the opera's even, Ramey hopes, "I hope they take that front row opportunity that they have with the governor in the room on Saturday to let him know, too, that the public cares about public education, it cares about arts education."

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