by JANA WILSON
From meticulous gardens to architectural gems, Indiana University is known for its picturesque campus. Outdoor statues and sculptures help accentuate that beauty, but IU philanthropist Pat Miller noticed that the artistic touches stopped north of 17th Street as visitors approached the athletics complex.
It was this revelation that led to the creation of Spirit of Indiana, a bronze sculpture that was unveiled on the south end of Memorial Stadium in March. The statue graces the entrance to the new Indiana University Excellence Academy and was made possible as part of a major gift by Miller and her husband, Mike.
The university also named the area surrounding the sculpture Miller Plaza in honor of the couple’s gift.
Artist Dora Natella, a classically trained, award-winning sculptor on the faculty of IU–South Bend, created Spirit of Indiana, to represent the university’s philosophy since 1925 of team over self. Natella’s sculpture is the first public work of art on the Bloomington campus created by a female artist. When she was invited to do the sculpture, Natella says, “I was over the moon!”
Spirit of Indiana is a 4,830-pound sculpture depicting five student-athletes—three male and two female—in a huddle with their hands raised toward the center, but not touching. Each figure is eight feet tall.
Having open space between the student-athletes and their hands at the top—in which Natella says she saw a heart when she looked up—made the creation of the sculpture complicated. But it was key to Natella’s concept of creating a sculpture that was open and welcoming.
Other significant details in the finished artwork include the number 24 on the shorts of one student-athlete representing the number of Division I sports at IU, a bracelet on the wrist of one of the female figures that bears the name Pat, and the number 200 on the shirtsleeve of another figure to commemorate IU’s bicentennial.