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Sculptor of Paterno sculpture weighs in on its fate

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(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

For the past week, the fate of Joe Paterno's famed statue on the Penn State campus has hung in the balance.

While some people threaten to tear it down while others try to defend it, Penn State's Board of Trustees said it would make a final decision within 7-10 days. In the meantime, the statue's sculptor, 65-year-old Angelo Di Maria, has mixed feelings about the work of art but told The Philadelphia Inquirer he would understand if it ultimately had to meet it's end.

"I have to say, I can't be so bold, because I'm the artist, that I want it [to stay] up," Di Maria told the paper. "That's what the public would expect me to think. I have to be clear with my conscience. I would go along with any just decision that is made. Not only am I compelled to take the side of the victims, but I consider also the feeling of the kids who went there [to Penn State], who have such a high regard for State College."

Di Maria has never met Paterno. To get the likeness of the 7-foot, 900-pound bronze statue, he dressed up as a member of the media — credential and all — and followed Paterno around on the sidelines with a camera. That was his only interaction with him.

But Di Maria notes the Penn State library is also a tribute to the legendary coach and he wonders if that also will be subject to the same scrutiny?

"There is another monument that's a tribute to him," Di Maria said. "The library. Do they tear that down? Should they raze that to the ground? If they're going to take the man down, then everything should be thrown out, but should you throw everything out, fairly?

"The basic question is, do you throw everything out? That legacy is ingrained in people who went there. Nothing can rival the importance of the abuse victims, or the children of the abuse victims. But there are others involved, the people who were so affected by him."

Di Maria has not heard from Penn State officials about the statue and has no allusions that they'll consult him one way or the other. However, he never envisioned his art becoming a constant reminder of one of the nation's biggest scandals.

"As an artist, part of me is in that statue, whether it's Joe Paterno or someone else," Di Maria said. "It hurts. It stood for a great man, before this whole thing broke out. I guess for some people he's still a great man.

"Can we reach a fair compromise? Yes, I believe it is humanly possible. But it is too early. Emotions are going through the ceiling. Humanity cannot make rational decisions when emotions are so high."

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