Protesters pan opera's black-tie affair to honor Corbett
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Saturday, May 12, 2012, 9:43 p.m.
Updated: Sunday, May 13, 2012
Steel Valley teacher Steven Singer stood outside the Pittsburgh Opera headquarters in the Strip District on Saturday as one of 200 people protesting the opera's decision to give Gov. Tom Corbett an award for his support of the arts.
"I'm incensed that the opera decided to give Gov. Corbett an award," said Singer, 38, of White Oak, an eighth-grade language arts teacher. "This man is responsible for cutting nearly $1 billion from the education budget. (The cuts are) eliminating arts and music programs, and you're going to reward him?"
Protesters met two blocks from the opera building and marched to its 24th Street entrance at 6 p.m. just as patrons were arriving for the organization's annual black-tie, $750-per-plate fundraiser.
Corbett apparently did not use the main entrance where the group chanted slogans, waved signs and gave speeches. No one answered the phone at his press office last evening.
Many people attending the gala steered through the crowd in their Cadillacs, Lincolns, BMWs and Acuras to get to the valets at the front door.
Debra Bell, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Opera, said the organization honored Corbett and his wife, Susan, for lifetime achievement in their support of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which doles out state money to arts organizations. Susan Corbett chairs the council. Bell said the opera did not intend to get caught in the middle of a public policy battle.
"No, we didn't (think about rescinding Corbett's award)," Bell said. "It's our way of saying, 'Thank you.'"
The protesters included teachers and union officials opposed to Corbett's budget cuts to education, as well those opposed to Marcellus shale drilling and reductions in public transportation.
Police reported no arrests.
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