Creativity is the heart of the mind and home is where the heart is — two mantras that collide in the home of State College’s own Pilato family.
Part of this family is Michael Pilato, well known in the State College area for creating numerous murals, including the famous “Inspiration” mural on Heister Street.
Guy and Grace Pilato’s house is only a short distance from campus and inside the house is a family, blessed with an artistic sensibility that arches through generations.
Most of the members of the family are artists and because of this, present what it means to be a family, a sentiment most Penn Staters have felt this past, trying year.
A tradition of the family is to hold a family dinner every Wednesday night at the home of Grace and Guy for any family member that is able to attend.
On the evening of Nov. 29, the Pilato family assembled around the table to discuss family, artwork and their collective exhibit at Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center, 101-B West Main Street, in Millheim, Pa. that will begin at 5 tonight.
The show, entitled “The Pilatos - Art Runs Deep,” is free to the public and will feature art from 12 family members in one show.
The house is furnished with various artwork by family members and others alike, including black, clay ceramic pottery crafted by Grace and entices an aroma of fresh food, prepared by Grace who is also the author of the cookbook, “Cooking with Grace.”
As family is seated around the table and food is placed on plates, the dinner begins once a pause is made to say a prayer.
The Pilatos, eating a traditional Italian meal, also discuss the logistics of the family’s soon-to-occur exhibit, while the children, ranging in age, whisper back and forth.
As it turns out the idea for the show all started at dinner much like this one.
Six months ago, sculptor Mark Pilato, twin to Michael, wondered, “wouldn’t it be great if we’ve had a Pilato family show?” which was met by much agreement by fellow family members.
Guy, who found the show intimidating, said that such a show has never been done before for the family.
Mark added that family always surrounds him and the show is a “way for [him] to move my inspiration into my creations.”
From this point on, every Wednesday night dinner would include lively discussions about the event.
“One of the ideas [presented] is for every one of us to have a self-portrait in the show,” Mark said, “each one showing our own style. It’s the way we see the world through out artistic eyes.”
Grace, mother of the family and ceramic artist, said that it has been awhile since she created.
“Mom is not just a crafts person but a sculptor … and a cancer survivor,” Mark said. “Her art shows that part of her life.”
Sister, Natalia Pilato is currently working on her doctorate degree in art education at Penn State after graduating with honors from Schreyer Honors College and earning a B.A. of fine arts and masters in education.
Natalia said that she considers herself an educator, facilitator and artist.
“My focus and research is community art,” she said.
But what is most visible while sitting around the table is that though this is a family of artists, it is primarily a family first.
Mark gushed about his wife, Alyssum, who is absent from the dinner.
“She’s showing her graphic novel [in the show]…it’s a bus ride of her life. It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the greatest graphic novel I’ve ever seen.”
Alyssum is self-taught and the novel showcases herself, her freedom and her alter ego, Mark said.
“It’s so easy for her…Alyssum is like Picasso in a way,” Mark said.
Lisa, Mark added, is another Pilato featured in the show. She is a lead dancer in the modern dance company called “Chaos” and for the show’s reception, a photo presentation of Lisa’s students will be shown.
“Lisa is the most grounded,” Mark said.
Grace added, “she is a mentor and gives scholarships to kids who normally can’t afford [to dance].”
At this, Natalia commented, “our family… a lot of us are educators, as well as artists… We find art as a catalyst for change.”
It’s with this that the conversation shifts into one about growing up in a family of artists.
“Mom would work for hours on a show…she would set us up in the studio with clay, as she worked. I was able to learn the process from her,” Mark said.
He added that it’s not about the finished piece, but it’s about the process.
“From the age of 13, I really have been able to use the process, as a meditation, as a way to step inside myself,” he said.
For Grace, this is the most “fulfilling” part.
“Once the piece is done, I no longer have an attachment to it,” Grace said.
Guy laughed that he is the opposite. “I don’t have an awful lot of process, so when I like [my work], I like to keep it,” he said.
The family then divulged into a story about how mistakes often make the greatest artistic pieces. Grace tells a story about a bust that didn’t dry properly and thus had broken, yet it became one of favorite pieces by her son Mark.
“I’m sure I didn’t see that at first,” Mark laughed.
Over plates of food, Mark said that he loves looking through his kids’ eyes, in their art. “I’m always learning stuff from them and how they solve their problems.”
Natalia’s daughter, Jazelle, said that the show will include works she made in seventh grade up until now, “so that [she] can see where [she’s] now.”
Six-year-old Max, the youngest at the table, said that his favorite piece is a “two-headed snake sculpture,” which gave way to laughter around the table.
Mark will be showing a sculpture called “Peace Child,” which will feature both of his children, Max and Carmen.
As the family went around the table, discussing their contributions to the show, Mark’s son Guyaton was asked about himself.
“I enjoy long walks on the beach…” Guyaton said, trailing off. “And making T-shirts,” which will be featured at the show along with his drawings and clay sculptures.
Gracie, Natalia’s daughter, said “I like to draw clothing…I’m sewing a self-portrait of textiles.”
With Christmas approaching, the family of artists says that they constantly give each other gifts that they’ve made.
At this, Guy pulled out a gift from Alyssum and Mark that he got from them 15 years prior, called “Let Your Heart Rejoice - 22 Ways to Repair the Heart,” which he received when he had a heart attack.
The family then started to discuss what it was like growing up with artists for parents.
Guy, a retired psychologist, “loved everything, while mom was the critic,” Mark said.
At the end of the dinner, Jazelle summarized, “we eat a lot and we talk a lot more.”
Karl Leitzel is the director of the gallery, which will feature the show called the collection “a really three generalist show.”
The show features an amazing variety of mediums and styles, from 3D sculptures to paintings.
The show poses, among other things, a story of a “family of artists and how that comes to be,” Leitzel said.
Guy will speak at the show’s reception about the issue of nature versus nurture in an artistic family and the show will feature a “round-table discussion” with other family members, where audience members can ask questions.
The exhibit will also feature music, which starts at 7 p.m., and beginning at 6 p.m. a giant chess game, that will use one of Mark’s pieces.
Leitzel called the set a “stylized piece,” which will bring to life a game of chess on a 4x4 board. The two players will be local child prodigies of music, aged 7 and 9.
The show will run until the end of January. Most of the works are on sale or can be commissioned, Leitzel added.
In the end, the Pilatos always finish their dinners by saying their “favorite thing” of the week. As the family speaks about seeing family members over Thanksgiving and getting to experience the win that was Penn State vs. Wisconsin, it becomes obvious that the Pilatos are those favorite things that make Penn State, Penn State.