One of my favorite Michael Pilato works of public art appears in State College above Panera Bread at the intersection of Allen and Beaver. It’s his “Princess Nittany” mural, which was commissioned by the building owners for the purpose of depicting scenes relevant to local life. It’s a beautiful addition to State College, and it’s especially special for me.

While living in State College, I would often work from my office in the building across the street. It had great views of both Allen Street and Beaver Avenue, and from my second floor window I could see Old Main peaking out over the trees of campus. It was my habit to keep the windows open during warm evenings, and the frequent creak and groan of Panera’s front door still echoes in my memory. The scene here is what I would see from that office window—except that brick wall is a lot more beautiful to look upon now.

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It was in this same office that I jotted down the first legal-pad notes outlining the concept for a book on the local folklore and American Indian legends specific to the Nittany Valley. It was in looking out the windows of that office that the first rough plans for presenting Henry Shoemaker‘s legendary stories of Princess Nittany, Lion’s Paw, King Wi-Daagh, and other narratives like the story of Grandfather Pine and the Stream of Never Ending Love became a definite plan. Eventually, that plan was realized through Nittany Valley Press’s 2013 publishing of “The Legends of the Nittany Valley.”

Seeing Michael Pilato’s mural above Panera brings back all those memories and hopes of just a few years ago, and I’m still sort of amazed that The Nittany Valley Society has been able to bring the book out in the way it has. Pilato’s mural of Princess Nittany tells some of the same stories as in the book.

If I could have known that the blank wall I would stare out upon when dreaming of a book telling these stories would itself start telling those same stories, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet here it is, and I can’t help but marvel at the magic of the coincidence.

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