Fans of Michael Pilato’s iconic Inspiration Mural on Heister St. in downtown State College will have another creation to enjoy from the prolific muralist.
Earlier this week, Pilato and his artistic partner Yuri Karabash installed a large mural above Panera Bread on 138 S. Allen St., which the pair has been working on for the last month. The mural takes up two spots, with a large painting above the restaurant at the corner and a small window-shaped version at sidewalk level.
Pilato calls his new work an extension of the Inspiration Mural. He says the artwork tells the story of the Nittany Valley’s history using popular folklore figures.
“In the small lower mural near the Panera Bread entrance, you can see a lovely woman, Princess Nit-a-Nee, with a lion paw and flowers representing a grave,” Pilato said. “The cub represents our students, our amazing, thoughtful youth who take the extra steps to think critically and to learn about our environment.”
As folklorist Henry Shoemaker’s legend goes, a Native American Princess Nit-a-Nee and her lover, the great Indian brave Lions Paw, lived in the Nittany Valley, which suffered from the wicked winds of the North that destroyed crops and ravaged the Native American tribe.
Princess Nit-a-Nee created a magical shield to protect her people from the winds, but the shield was stolen and Lions Paw was killed. The princess buried Lions Paw and prayed that something could be done to protect her people from the north winds. The next day, a giant mountain rose out from Lions Paw’s grave, forever protecting the Nittany Valley from those wicked north winds so that its people may live and prosper.
(Shameless plug: You can read this legend and other Shoemaker folklore in “The Legends of Nittany Valley” book.)
Pilato’s mural depicts the scene of this legend and pays tribute to Princess Nit-a-Nee on the sidewalk level panel.
“Even though it’s a very simple mural, it has a lot of meaning,” Pilato said. “I’m really excited about this one. It’s really for the students and the residents of Centre County to enjoy.”
The Panera building is owned by Nina and George Woskob. The local couple are longtime fans of Pilato and commissioned him to work on this latest mural at their building.
“We saw in him the ability to transcend today’s conflicts and paint an image in the heart of our downtown that reflects State College’s beautiful history and legend,” the Woskobs said jointly. “As a community we have the ability to choose our own identity, and thus we want to inspire others to show how art and history can coalesce to display the positive aspects of our beautiful college town.”
Pilato says he has plans to paint murals like this one at various locations around town. Other mural tributes that Pilato hopes to create include the story of THON, the Special Olympics, and the 2012 football team.