By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The artist who removed Joe Paterno’s halo from a State College mural says he wasn’t trying to condemn the late Penn State coach, but he does want to send a message about how important it is to report sexual abuse. He’s motivated by a personal heartbreak.
Michael Pilato painted the mural Inspiration 12 years ago.
“That was a thank you to my community, to the people I respected in my community.”
At the time, that included Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky, he painted out when he was arrested.
“I believe in due process, but I didn’t want those men to be walking by and seeing him on the mural.”
Listen to Pat Loeb’s interview with Michael Pilato.
A lot has changed in those 12 years, both at Penn State and in Pilato’s own life. Just as the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case has shattered the university, Pilato was upended when his teenage daughter confided she’d been raped.
The intersection of personal and institutional tragedies has unexpectedly played out on his mural. When Sandusky was arrested, Pilato painted him out of the mural and replaced him with poet and Penn State alumna Dora McQuaid, a survivor of sexual abuse.
“She’s going to be writing a poem with my daughter and 15 other young people who were victims of sexual abuse and you’re going to see that poem through the blue ribbon.”
The blue ribbon is a symbol of awareness of sex abuse first added to the mural after Sandusky’s arrest and again last week.
He went back to the mural when Paterno died in January and added a halo, which he says he meant simply as a reminder of our mortality, but he was distressed to hear people read it as a sign of saintliness. He says he felt he must paint it out and he hopes adding a blue ribbon to Paterno’s lapel, will send a message.
“Out of every negative, there is a positive. I think that anybody today, after this terrible tragedy — I hope that people will go to the police.”