Charlie Humphrey resigned Monday from the board of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, a move prompted by GPAC's explanation for the Pittsburgh Opera's honoring of Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife, Susan, with lifetime achievement awards at a dinner over the weekend.
The tribute at the opera's Strip District headquarters Saturday night drew 200 protesters -- including Pittsburgh Public School marching band students -- to voice their opposition over the award because they believe Mr. Corbett has undermined arts education in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Humphrey, CEO/executive director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, said in his resignation letter that GPAC circulated "a one-sided 'fact' sheet that was put together with the help of the Pittsburgh Opera and the PA Council on the Arts."
"It cannot be contested that the opera's actions are deeply controversial. The arts community, historically a remarkably cooperative construct of diverse interests, is deeply divided over this event. To send email to the GPAC membership under the heading 'Arts Advocacy Alerts,' and then claim to not be taking a position, stretches credulity," he wrote.
Mr. Humphrey, who helped start the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance, which later became GPAC, ended his letter by saying that he could not, "serve an organization that panders to the forces of government."
Mitch Swain, executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, said he had no comment on Mr. Humphrey's resignation.
Mr. Swain said he sent out the alert Friday after reading blogs and Facebook posts and seeing, "an increasing amount of misinformation about funding for the arts. So, we sent that message out to get some facts out and not to take a side or push forward an agenda."
The email reiterated first lady Susan Corbett's career as an arts manager and service as a board member for more than a decade on the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which she chairs.
GPAC's email also stated that state funding for the arts has not decreased under Mr. Corbett and that he defended the Pennsylvania Council from the Arts from a recommended 70 percent cut in funding last year.
GPAC's email referenced a memo written by "Dennis Roddy of the Post-Gazette," and said he reported that Mr. Corbett "restored $800 million in funding that the previous administration had taken out."
However, Mr. Roddy wrote the memo to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in his role as special assistant to Gov. Corbett. A former staff reporter at the Post-Gazette, Mr. Roddy left the newspaper in early 2011.
Mr. Swain said GPAC received two supportive emails in response. Two other people who emailed GPAC, "were concerned that somehow we were supporting or defending the governor," he added.
GPAC represents 230 organizations. Mr. Swain said he travels to Harrisburg six to 10 times a year to advocate for arts groups.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Mr. Corbett, defended the governor's record on funding for the arts.
"Unlike Governor Rendell, who cut funding to the arts in his last two budgets, Gov. Corbett has maintained funding for the arts despite difficult economic conditions.
"Mr. Humphrey, who pays himself a six-figure salary from his nonprofit arts organization, has the luxury of resigning in protest whenever he doesn't get his way," Mr. Harley said.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648. Clarification: An earlier version of this story referred to an article written by "Dennis Roddy of the Post Gazette." In fact, the information about education funding came from a memo that Mr. Roddy, special assistant to Gov. Tom Corbett, sent to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Mr. Roddy, a former staff writer for the Post-Gazette, left the newspaper in early 2011. First Published May 15, 2012 4:00 AM