Julie Rodrigues Widholm interviewed in Crain’s Chicago Business

November 10, 2016
Can-a-new-director-make-DePaul-Art-Museum-a-major-player.jpg

Photo by Lizabeth Applewhite

Can a new director make DePaul Art Museum a major player?

by Lisa Bertagnoli, published in Crain’s Chicago Business Sept. 17, 2016. 

Can Julie Rodrigues Widholm make DePaul Art Museum a major player in the art world in this town?

Widholm, new director and chief curator at DePaul, is off to a good start. In May, she snagged 114 works by 59 Chicago-area artists from collector Chuck Thurow. On Sept. 24, the museum will claim the Northern Trust Purchase Prize, a gift of art exhibited at Expo Chicago. Widholm and Dia Weil, a university trustee, will select the piece from Expo Chicago’s Exposures gallery, a forum for emerging artists.

The gifts are helping Widholm make DePaul a showcase for artists based in Chicago and those from underrepresented regions and demographics. That niche, she says, will help the museum gain must-see status.

“There is such a deep and talented pool of artists in Chicago,” says Widholm, 41, who joined the museum in August 2015 after 16 years as a curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. There she assembled some 50 shows, including the 2015 retrospective for Doris Salcedo, the first for the Colombian sculptor. “Our institutions can never provide enough opportunities to work with them, showcase them, give them opportunities to grow as artists.”

To increase the focus on Chicago art, as well as on female artists and others from underrepresented spheres, Widholm has hired Mia Lopez as an assistant curator and Laura-Caroline Johnson as collection and exhibition manager.

An emphasis on local work “is an incredibly important gap in terms of the art collections of the city, someone really looking at Chicago art in-depth,” Thurow told Crain’s in August, when news of his gift was made public. “That’s not the MCA’s or Art Institute’s mission.” Thurow declined to disclose the appraised value of the donation.

Overall, Widholm plans to build a collection that spans from the modern era to emerging artists and include international art as well. “It’s important to integrate Chicago artists into several histories that run parallel with each other,” she says.

Widholm has the art to make that happen. Now she needs the money. “Funding is a top priority,” she says.

The museum gets about $500,000 a year from the university, which has an annual budget of about $500 million. A small endowment gives Widholm $25,000 a year to acquire new work. Grants help, too: $15,000 from Alphawood Foundation will underwrite “One Day This Kid Will Get Larger,” a show opening Jan. 26 in which emerging contemporary artists of color explore issues concerning AIDS. DePaul Art Museum stages four to six exhibits a year, each for three months.

 - DePaul Art Museum

DePaul Art Museum

A few million dollars extra would enable Widholm to hire a full-time education and outreach director, and boost marketing and advertising as well.

The museum opened in 1987 in a single room in McGaw Hall on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, then moved to the university’s library in 1992. It is now housed in a three-story, 15,000-square-foot space on campus and draws about 12,000 visitors a year. An outreach director could plan programming to draw more people, especially locals, to the museum, says Widholm, who has a master’s in art history, theory and criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“We are very much a place to build a community—programming is a key way to make people feel welcome,” she says. “Studies have shown that art museums are a social experience. People go to hang out.”

Widholm will launch a private-donor initiative, the museum’s first, in the next few months. She is also building an advisory board and an alumni board, and plans a director’s circle of major funders.

To date, Belverd Needles and his wife, Marian Powers, have supported the museum mostly with gifts of art. “I don’t see why we couldn’t be successful in raising money,” says Needles, EY distinguished professor of accountancy at DePaul, who has been involved with the museum since the mid-1990s. “It’s not the MCA or the Art Institute, but we have a beautiful building, a highly motivated staff, university support and successful graduates,” he says.

Widholm’s MCA background will help her court the donors she needs to catapult DePaul Art Museum into elite territory. “When you’re a curator for a major institution like the MCA, you build up community credit,” says Tony Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago, which opens Sept. 22 at Navy Pier. Widholm has a reputation as “an able, smart, effective curator, a wonderful person to work with,” he says. “That’s why doors are opening.”

DePaul hired Widholm to “take (the museum) to the next level,” says the Rev. Ed Udovic, vice president for teaching and learning resources at the university. Widholm replaced Louise Lincoln, who retired after 17 years.

Lincoln “professionalized the operation,” cataloging works and organizing what was once chaos, Udovic says. She also oversaw the new building, which opened in 2011 and cost $7.8 million. University capital funds covered the cost.

All in all, that’s a good foundation for Widholm to build on. “I have this vision that people think of us as part of their daily life,” she says. “If you’re walking home, you just pop in.”

DPAM is now on ARTSY

November 2, 2016

ARTSY is an online hub for contemporary art lovers. Follow your favorite artists, galleries and art museums- and now DPAM too! Check it out.

 

Chicago Museum Week

October 11, 2016

Recent Gift to DePaul Art Museum

August 22, 2016

CHICAGO — Collectors and artists in Chicago who are seeking to build a legacy of the city’s modern and emerging artists are finding a home for artwork in the DePaul Art Museum’s collection. Located on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus, the museum recently acquired more than 100 works by Chicago-based artists, underlining its commitment to curate, exhibit and collect art from the local community.

Collector Chuck Thurow donated the 114 works by 59 Chicago artists to the DePaul Art Museum’s permanent collection, strengthening the museum’s hometown focus that positions Chicago as a global city. The works include paintings, photography, sculpture, drawings and other works on paper.

“This gift supports the DePaul Art Museum’s vision to reflect the history of art in Chicago, from the modern era to the present,” said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of the museum. “Whether artists have spent their whole career here, studied here or were born here, we are interested in all of those scenarios in which Chicago is a touch point for artists.”

“It is significant that this gift is from Chuck Thurow, who rallied support for artists in Chicago as director of the Hyde Park Arts Center and has played a significant role in the story of art in Chicago that we’re trying to tell,” Widholm added.

Many of the artists were not previously represented in the DePaul Art Museum’s collection, and the donation significantly expands the museum’s holdings of local art. Works include:

 

  • Paintings by Jim Lutes, Phyllis Bramson, Candida Alvarez and Philip Hanson.
  • Photography by Dawoud Bey, Bob Thall, Jay Boersma, Ben Gest, Shane Huffman, Lisa Lindvay and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford.
  • Works on paper by Linda Kramer, Oli Watt, Richard Rezac, Mike Lash, Paul LaMantia, Eleanor Speiss-Ferris, Max King Cap, Karl Wirsum and Sandra Perlow.
  • Works from Latino artists including Juan Angel Chavez, Nicolas de Jesus, Arnaldo Roche, Michael Hernandez de Luna, Paul Sierra and Santiago Filemon.
  • Early work from Theaster Gates, Brian Calvin and Marie Krane Bergman.
  • Small sculptures by Chris Garofalo, Faheem Majeed, and Marva Jolly.
  • Works by self-taught artists: Mr. Imagination, Derek Webster and Stephen Warde Anderson.

 

Thurow collected the artwork during his tenure as director of the Hyde Park Art Center on Chicago’s South Side, from 1998 to 2010. Throughout his career, Thurow said he worked to “make Chicago a great place for artists to live and work.”

“Part of that is not only the exhibition spaces, but places that are building a legacy of art in the city, and DePaul is one of those places. I was very delighted to give the work to their collection,” Thurow said.

DePaul’s faculty and students will have access to study these works at the museum. According to Thurow, he was drawn to that scholarship and the museum’s connection to Chicago.

“It’s a chance to tackle the question: What is the relationship between the physical place and the creativity in that place? And that’s an exciting topic to me, to have the collection in an academic setting where people are looking at those kinds of questions. That’s one of the reasons I love having given the material to DePaul,” said Thurow.

Earlier this year, the DePaul Art Museum lent several works by Chicago artists to the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago for its “Monster Roster” exhibition. Thurow noticed that the holdings from DePaul rounded out the show. “You would not be able to do a show in-depth like that without the DePaul Art Museum.”

Chicago artists are also featured in this summer’s exhibitions at the DePaul Art Museum. Tony Fitzpatrick’s “The Secret Birds” and Barbara Rossi’s “Poor Traits” and “Eye Owe You!” are on display through Aug. 21.

Widholm hopes that Thurow’s donation will be a catalyst for other gifts.

“As we seek to expand the art historical canon for future generations to study, I hope people will think of us if they have work by significant, interesting artists with ties to Chicago. We would like to be the home for that work to create a meaningful platform for its study and display alongside great works of art from around the world.” she said.

 

image above: Candida Alvarez, “Son So & So,” Acrylic and Graphite, 2001.

Selina Trepp Interview

June 30, 2016

DePaul Newsline interviews artist and faculty member Selina Trepp about her work on view at DePaul Art Museum.

Read the interview. 

 

Upcoming Events

ARTISTS TALK: EDGAR ARCENEAUX

12/10/2016

DECEMBER 10 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

ARTIST TALK: EDGAR ARCENEAUX

 

Los Angeles-based artist Edgar Arceneaux will speak about his practice and the works included in the current exhibition “On Space and Place.”

Free and open to everyone

 

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