MICHIGAN CITY — The Polish Heritage Foundation has been busy fulfilling its mission to educate and cultivate Polish pride. And, this weekend will be the culmination of one of its projects to live up to this goal.
On Sunday at 1 p.m., the foundation is hosting a dedication of a bronzed bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, created by local artist Dora Natella, in the Polish Garden of Friendship Botanic Gardens, 2055 E. U.S. 12.
“He was a remarkable man – a man that wore so many hats for Poland,” Polish Heritage Foundation President Mark Kolasa explained as to why the foundation chose this particular Polish historical figure. “For his time in office, he was known around the world.”
Paderewski was a Polish pianist, composer, statesman, humanitarian, businessman, film actor, patron of art and architecture and more; he was prime minister of Poland in 1919.
Kolasa explained that the bust actually replaces a former one of Paderewski that was previously destroyed in the Polish Garden at Friendship Botanic Gardens. Coincidentally, he has a decades-old photograph of his own grandparents, Walter and Ruth Kolasa, standing next to the terra cotta bust. Only the pedestal has remained, which the Polish Heritage Foundation has restored and made ready for the new bronzed bust. The Polish Garden has been under the care of the Polish Heritage Foundation, the non-profit group founded in 2012 by Mark Kolasa, the late George Neagu and Dr. Richard Houck MD.
The process to replace the bust began a few years ago with a search for the right artist to carry out the task.
“It was very hard to find someone. Sculpture is a dying art,” Kolasa said. “We wanted an artist closer to home.”
The foundation chose Dora Natella, who has been an associate professor of sculpture at the University of Indiana South Bend since 2004. Raised and educated in Italy, she later moved to the United States for advanced studies in bronze casting techniques and “for the opportunity to immerse herself in a new culture with fewer direct connections to a classical past,” as detailed on her website, www.doranatella.com. Natella’s artwork has been widely exhibited in numerous venues across the U.S., and her sculptures have won many awards as well as been included as part of several private and public collections.
Natella explained that one of her students who was in contact with the Polish Heritage Foundation and lived in Michigan City recommended her for the commission of the Paderewski sculpture.
“It was kind of serendipitous in a way,” she commented. “I love portraiture and it’s something I’m good at. I love music – I love Paderewski’s music.”
Natella explained the many phases of the sculpting process for the piece to be placed in Friendship Botanic Gardens. The bronzed bust is hollow, a fact she said that many people don’t realize. First, she creates the original sculpture in clay. Next a negative impression is made in simple plaster. A wax replica is made next and coated with refractory plastic, which is resistant to thermal shocks. When the piece is fired in the kiln, the wax is melted out and the final bronze is poured where the wax was.
“It’s a process of substitution the whole time where one material takes the impression of another material. It’s a process of transformation and metamorphosis,” Natella said.
The life-size bronzed bust is of Paderewski’s head, neck and a small portion of his chest.
Kolasa said the foundation monitored Natella’s work and visited her in her classroom at the Indiana University South Bend. They were also privileged to see the sculpture while it was in its clay form.
“To see it raw like that was beautiful. Just to see this made – her hands made it and that’s what makes it so special,” Kolasa related.
For research for her sculpture, Natella scoured the Internet for any image of Paderewski she could find. Interestingly, the vast majority of photographs she found were predominantly of his right side.
“They were old, foggy and not necessarily studio photos,” she said.
“It’s always a challenge to make a sculpture of someone that’s not there,” she further explained. “What you always see in two-dimensional is not always translatable to three-dimensional.”
But, Natella was ready to rise to the challenge.
“I can fill in the blanks when the information is not always available … It’s an incredible journey to read the biography information and get to know this person in more than one way.”
“I totally enjoyed this project very very much,” she added.
Natella said she “zeroed in on youth to middle age – mature, but not really old. He was an attractive young and middle-aged man.” She also chose to “enhance his amazing hairstyle.”
“Word has it that when he played on stage that women would go wild over him – similar to how they would with the Beatles,” commented Kolasa.
In addition to the dedication at 1 p.m., the event will include more information about the Paderewski bust as well as a social hour time with refreshments. There will also be lived and recorded music of Paderewski’s. The event is free to the public. Seating is limited and guests are welcome to bring in lawn chairs to enjoy the event.
He said the sculpture was made possible through the foundation’s annual Polish Heritage Festival; this year’s event is scheduled for Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information about the Paderewski bust dedication and the Polish Heritage Festival can be obtained by visiting “Polish Heritage Festival” on Facebook.
Mark carries his love of Poland into the community through his position as President of the Polish Heritage Foundation. with a purpose to educate and cultivate Polish pride. The organization puts on the annual Polish Heritage Festival to be held at Friendship Botanic Gardens on Sept. 16 this year, and it awards annual college scholarships to Northwest Indiana students.