STATE COLLEGE - While artists cannot erase tragedy with a single brushstroke, art can be used as a source of inspiration and hope for those in need.
That is the message members of the Council for Hope and Healing plan to share at their "Painting for Change: Coming Together to Kickoff the 9/11 Vigil" event on Monday on Heister Street and College Avenue.
"It's so people don't forget what that day is," Michael Pilato said of the vigil. "It's a day to remember those people that served," including firefighters, emergency medical personnel, police and civilians killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
A founding member of the Council for Hope and Healing, Pilato received criticism in July for the removal of halos over the heads of deceased figures in his sprawling downtown mural, including a halo above the head of late football coach Joe Paterno.
But the mural was never meant to be a "finished" piece of art and is instead an ever-changing conduit for hope and healing, Pilato said.
Visitors will see that change firsthand as Pilato adds a portrait of Lt. Michael P. Murphy to the mural when the vigil begins at 12:15 p.m. Monday.
A 1998 Penn State graduate, Murphy was killed in June 2005 while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan.
Honoring Murphy and all those affected by the Sept. 11 attacks through public art is one way to aid in the healing process, Pilato said.
Council for Hope and Healing members are hopeful that public art can also aid in the healing process surrounding the Sandusky scandal.
"The event is a great opportunity to bring the Penn State and State College community together," CHH chairman Steve Garguilo said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for people to learn about the remarkable individuals that are showcased on the Inspiration Mural. We'll also have the opportunity to learn more about local programs dedicated to education and awareness of sexual violence and child abuse."
Herbert Reininger, creative director at Penn State Outreach and a CHH member, said the event came from a collective desire of the organization's members to do something positive in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
"There is an underlying, important aspect in our human existence which we usually don't acknowledge, which is, 'we're all in this together,'" Reininger said.
CHH members hope for a large turnout at the event - both to help spread their message and to help people heal and express themselves during the vigil, he said.
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said the vigil is an expression of genuine caring and a prime example of the positive aspects of a community routinely drowned out in the wake of the scandal.
"It is definitely one of the saddest moments in our history," Goreham said of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We need to somehow honor that, by helping something good come out of it."
Also expected to speak at the event are recently elected Board of Trustees member Ryan McCombie and New York City firefighter Tony Marden.
The mural has been a flashpoint for discussion surrounding the Sandusky scandal, CHH member and Happy Valley Cares Executive Director Kate Branford said.
CHH members are working on a variety of art-based projects to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and aid in the healing process, Branford said. Partnering with Pilato and raising awareness of the group's efforts during the vigil seemed like a natural fit.
"It's a very calming, comforting way," to spread awareness of abuse while engaging community members through artwork, Branford said.
"We are a community that is healing, and we are going to come out of it as a better community," she added.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.