The sidewalk adjacent to local artist Michael Pilato’s “Inspiration” mural on Hiester Street soon will bear more inspiration in the form of messages on brick pavers.
The Borough Council on Monday night approved the plan 5-1, with Jim Rosenberger opposing. Councilwoman Cathy Dauler was absent.
Pilato’s request required a vote because such pavers, similar to those in front of The State Theatre and The Tavern Restaurant, fall under the borough’s sign ordinance.
Rosenberger opposed the ordinance after suggesting that pavers with messages be allowed on the portion of the sidewalk on private property, and pavers with only family names be allowed on the public portions of sidewalk. That amendment failed 4-2.
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Some council members expressed concern about negativity on the pavers and that, perhaps, people would pay to engrave messages related to the NCAA sanctions against Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“I think the community has already been divided by this in serious ways,” said Councilman Ron Filippelli. “I would not like part of downtown to be divisive, and that worries me.”
Solicitor Terry Williams pointed out that, legally, the mural and bricks on private property fall under freedom of speech and that allowing bricks in the public right of way is a matter of equal protection.
“The next group that asks to do this, you’ll have a hard time refusing them,” Williams said.
Pilato assured the council that his board of directors from the nonprofit Public Art Academy will approve only positive messages for what he called the “World Mural Walkway.” He said the group will not allow to appear the word “hate” or attacks against individuals. The blue, pink and red pavers would be available to anyone with a positive message, and Pilato said he’s had interest from veterans.
Proceeds from the bricks will help maintain the mural, which he said is fading.
“I really believe in years to come, when people come back, yes, if they don’t agree with a topic of love they can have that opinion, but it is the voice of this community,” he said.“We would not and we would never ... put anything on that walkway that has anything to do with hate or attacking another group or organization.”