IU South Bend art professor dies in crash on Indiana Toll Road

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 1:35 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The victim of Tuesday’s deadly crash on the Indiana Toll Road was an art professor at Indiana University South Bend.

Indiana State Police identified the victim on Wednesday as Dora Natella, 66, of Granger. According to our reporting partners at the South Bend Tribune, Natella was a sculpture professor at IU South Bend and had led the university’s sculpture program since 2004.

According to Indiana State Police, Natella was the front seat passenger of an SUV that crashed into a UPS semi with double trailers. Police say the semi had come to a stop in the road after the brakes on the rear trailer locked up. The SUV swerved left to avoid the trailer but ultimately hit its left corner.

Natella was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV, a 28-year-old Granger man, and the driver of the semi, a 33-year-old Munster man, were not hurt in the crash.

According to IU South Bend, Natella was born in Venezuela and raised and educated in Italy, where she studied classical sculpture tradition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples.

Before coming to the university, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at Western Michigan University and taught sculpture at IU Bloomington and the University of Oregon.

There’s the physical mark she’s left on IU campuses both in South Bend and in Bloomington, and there’s also the emotional and professional impact she left on students and also the staff members 16 News Now spoke with on Wednesday.

Gaia by Dora Natella
Gaia by Dora Natella(IUSB)

The photo above depicts one of her most recognizable pieces on IU South Bend’s campus simply called Gaia, which debuted back in 2000 in Chicago. The sculpture is a reflection on the current state of the planet personified by the Greek Earth mother goddess.

Euterpe's Gift by Dora Natella
Euterpe's Gift by Dora Natella(IUSB)

Another work that will live on at IU South Bend is Euterpe’s Gift, which debuted in 2017 paying homage to the university’s reputation for figurative art.

Shocked was just one of the words her colleagues used after learning she was the victim in Tuesday’s fatal crash.

“Her work was so meaningful and expressive to so many people. Her use of the human form in a very loving and embracing way of humanity of all of her work,” said IU South Bend Fine Arts Chair Susan Moore.

“Her transparency, her candor, again, that zest for life and that tenacity to fight and hold on throughout that process was really inspirational to a lot of people,” said IU South Bend School of the Arts Assistant Dean Dr. Tami Martinez.

Martinez is referencing the pancreatic cancer battle Natella was facing at the time of her death.

Just recently, Natella earned high praise for a sculpture unveiled on the Bloomington campus.

Spirit of Indiana by Dora Natella
Spirit of Indiana by Dora Natella(IUSB)

Pictured above is the Spirit of Indiana sculpture that made its debut in June of 2021 just south of Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. It represents putting the team over oneself showing five Hoosier student-athletes coming together to join as one.

Now, her work has a completely different meaning to those who knew her.

“She was so full of strength and hope. This is something that was communicated to all of us — her strength to move forward and her drive as an artist and a person. You don’t expect this, so we are devastated here. We have lost a great artist in our community,” said Raclin School of the Arts Former Interim Dean Dr. Jorge Muniz.

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