DPAM names Julie Rodrigues Widholm as new director

CHICAGO — DePaul University has named Julie Rodrigues Widholm, a nationally recognized curator of contemporary art, as director for the DePaul Art Museum located on its Lincoln Park Campus. Widholm brings 16 years of experience from her career with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and will join DePaul Aug. 31.

Widholm will step into the position held on an interim basis by Laura Fatemi, associate director of the museum. Fatemi succeeded Louise Lincoln, who served for 17 years as director.

“Julie brings exceptional experience to this role and will help expand the DePaul Art Museum’s commitment to Chicago artists and its fine reputation in Chicago and beyond,” said the Rev. Edward Udovic, C.M., vice president for teaching and learning resources. “With her vision, the museum is poised to enter a new era of growth in collections, exhibitions and philanthropic support.”

Widholm has curated more than 50 exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, including major shows such as “Doris Salcedo,” the first museum retrospective for the Colombian artist. That exhibition is currently on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York this summer and will also travel to Perez Art Museum in Miami in spring 2016.

“I admire the beautiful new museum space at DePaul and, in the last few years, there has been great momentum around the museum and its exhibitions,” she said. “I look forward to creating a vision for the exhibition program and related events that promotes interdisciplinary thinking and explores how art is relevant to all facets of life. I plan to put DePaul Art Museum on the cultural map of nationally-recognized art museums.

“With an international program that creates a global perspective through the lens of art,” Widholm said, “I envision the DePaul Art Museum as a space for dialogue around diverse experiences, which supports the university’s mission of social justice and inclusion, and an innovative space for teaching and learning.”

In her current role as curator, Widholm oversees three to seven exhibitions a year. She has published extensively, researching and writing publications for each show.

Widholm said she is particularly proud of providing opportunities for artists and commissioned Chicago-born sculptor Amanda Ross-Ho’s first outdoor public art project, “The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things.” The artist’s work, as well as the MCA’s marketing efforts, drew a “phenomenal” response on Instagram and other social media sites, creating conversations around the role of public art.

She also supports women and Latin American artists, such as Amalia Pica, whose first major American solo exhibition Widholm co-organized with MIT List Visual Art Center, and last year curated “Unbound: Contemporary Art after Frida Kahlo,” bringing forward artists who share Kahlo’s spirit of rebellion.

In addition to her curatorial work, Widholm has raised as much as $1.5 million from private donors to support exhibitions.

Widholm began her career at the MCA as a research assistant in 1999 and rose through the ranks to assistant curator and associate curator before beginning her current role in 2012. During that time, she earned a reputation for highlighting the work of emerging and local artists by curating dozens of 12×12: New Artists/New Work exhibitions. Her landmark exhibition “Escultura Social” brought work from young artists in Mexico City to Chicago for the first time. She also organized artist Rashid Johnson’s first major solo exhibition in 2012, which toured to Miami, Atlanta and St. Louis.

“I’m committed to making Chicago a world-class city for the arts,” she said. Although Chicago is her adopted home, it’s the place she has lived the longest. Growing up, Widholm’s family moved around the world with her father’s job, from Brazil and Mozambique to Portugal and Germany, as well as to cities throughout the U.S. These travels influenced Widholm “in every way,” she said. “Art is a space where you can engage with ideas and experiences that are different than your own. It’s very important to be able to do that in this world.”

Widholm earned bachelor’s degrees in art history and political science from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and a master’s degree in art history, theory and criticism from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Founded in 1898, DePaul University is an educational institution distinguished by its Catholic history and urban character, which are deeply rooted in the fabric of Chicago. The DePaul Art Museum extends the university’s commitments to excellence, diversity and social concerns through its innovative exhibitions, programs and events.

The museum’s strong interest in Chicago art is likewise in keeping with the university’s local heritage. Its exhibitions and collections are enriched by the wide-ranging expertise of DePaul faculty and provide space for faculty and students to pursue innovative approaches to art and culture. The museum has an established history of presenting exhibitions that appeal to the breadth of Chicago’s audiences while maintaining a high standard of academic and intellectual integrity.

The DePaul Art Museum serves as a visual arts resource for the university and the greater Chicago community. In recent years the museum has grown in size and visibility with a state-of-the-art 15,000 square foot, three-story building that opened in 2011 at 935 W. Fullerton Ave., just east of the CTA’s Fullerton ‘L’ stop. It has been widely praised for its welcoming exterior and versatile galleries. More information is available on the museum’s website.

See the full press release here.