Two women — a juror in the Jerry Sandusky trial and an advocate on issues of domestic and sexual violence — said Sunday they are honored to be part of artist Michael Pilato’s “Inspiration.”
Pilato added to his mural on the side of the Student Book Store building on Hiester Street, filling in the empty space left last November when he painted over the image of Sandusky, leaving only a blue ribbon on the seat of a chair.
Now seated there is Dora E. McQuaid, a Penn State graduate who also taught at the university from 1999 to 2006. She is a poet who began her advocacy with a book of poems, “the scorched earth,” her method of healing following her own experience with sexual and domestic violence.
She has received various awards for her efforts in Pennsylvania to address issues of abuse and now lives in New Mexico.
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McQuaid said Sunday she has known Pilato since they were undergraduates together 24 years ago, and is “deeply honored” to be included in the painting.
She said the conversation around those issues has changed somewhat in the 14 years she has been an advocate, referencing scandals in the Catholic church and at other universities.
“What we’re seeing is a revolution in the willingness to talk openly and publicly about these experiences that are most often suffered in silence,” she said. “And it is that silence that victims are entrenched in that is part of what keeps them suffering.”
Pilato said Sunday he knew immediately that he wanted to paint McQuaid in Sandusky’s place, but waited to do so until the verdict was announced Friday.
Sandusky was found guilty of 45 out of 48 charges related to the sexual abuse of young boys.
McQuaid and Sandusky juror Ann Van Kuren said they hope the verdict will help the victims heal.
“That weighed on us, the seriousness of the whole thing,” Van Kuren said of the jury. “This was speaking to them. This really was about them.”
Next to McQuaid’s image are two bright-red handprints. One is from Pilato’s daughter, Skye, who was raped at age 12. The other is from Van Kuren, a Penn State instructor and director of a local dance studio.
Van Kuren said she was chosen to add to the mural because she helped reach a verdict “favorable to victims of crime, victims of abuse.”
Van Kuren said she hopes other abuse victims also will be able to “speak and not be silent.”
“When Penn State students come back, I hope they become aware of it,” she said of the mural and its meaning.
Though Pilato painted over the blue ribbon on the chair where McQuaid’s image now sits, the symbol of child abuse awareness didn't disappear. He repainted it around the neck of the lion in the lower, right-hand corner of the piece.
He said the lion is an American Indian symbol of strength, courage and dignity.
“These young people are survivors and heroes,” he said, adding that he received positive feedback from passers-by as he painted Sunday. “People picked up on it all day.”
McQuaid’s image is not yet complete, Pilato said. She will work with Pilato’s daughter and other victims to write a poem that Pilato will paint on a blue ribbon woven into her hair.
This fall, he plans to begin work on a new mural on Penn State’s campus, featuring hundreds of people from around the world who are survivors of abuse and who have spoken out about it.
“This is all about love,” he said. “It’s about inspirational people.”
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter