DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Interim director for DePaul Art Museum
By Madeline Rosemurgy /
July 15, 2020 /
Posted in: CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY /
“Julie has taken a well-regarded museum to world class status—engaging community, both locally and internationally, with game changing shows that have tackled the issues and considerations of our present time," says Scott Hunter, DePaul Art Museum's advisory board chair. “She and the amazing team she brought together have engaged a dynamic focus on intersectional identity and culture as explored through multiple artistic modalities, fostering an incredibly important conversation in Chicago and the country."
During her five-year tenure at DPAM, Widholm transformed the museum into one of Chicago's most vibrant art institutions. A defining focus of her leadership has been a deepening emphasis on diversity and inclusion as central components of the museum's mission, attracting local, national and international attention. The Chicago Tribune described Widholm's curatorial program as “a series of solo shows as hard-hitting in their politics as they have been seductive in their presentation."
Under Widholm's leadership, DPAM organized nearly 40 exhibitions, published 10 catalogues, and acquired 500 works over the past five years, all with a focus on artists of color, women, and LGBTQ artists, with special attention to those from and working in Chicago. Earlier this year, Widholm launched DPAM's
Latinx Initiative, which formalizes the museum's ongoing efforts toward fostering Latinx representation in exhibitions, collections, publications, and programs. “LatinXAmerican," an intergenerational group exhibition featuring more than 30 Latin American and Latinx artists curated by Widholm and her team, is slated to open early next year.
Since Widholm's arrival in 2015, DPAM has increased its attendance by 40 percent, reaching new audiences from Chicago's diverse communities as well as a growing number of national and international visitors. DPAM broke attendance records last summer when it became the first art museum to show the work of Bob Ross in Widholm's internationally-recognized exhibition, “New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival."
On campus, Widholm established a faculty forum to foster teaching with the museum, created paid opportunities for students including a museum studies internship and Arthur D. James museum studies fellowship, and implemented collaborative programs with new partners across the university. She also cultivated lasting community partnerships for DPAM with organizations such as Art Design Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.
Widholm prioritized financial sustainability for the museum, tripling DPAM's annual operating budget by bringing in support from numerous new donors and grants including the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. She also established an external advisory board for DPAM, which now has nine members including an annual rotating artist member.
In recognition of her accomplishments at DPAM, the Chicago Tribune named Widholm named
Chicagoan of the Year in Museums in 2019. The Frieze Art Fair also recruited her to curate a Chicago Tribute section for the 2019 fair, which paid homage to the pioneering women artists of Chicago.
“I am incredibly proud of what my team and I have accomplished with modest resources and big ambitions for DPAM," Widholm says. "Through hard work, personal dedication, and clarity of vision toward equity and inclusion, supporting Chicago-based artists, and our academic mission, we have demonstrated that smaller museums can have a big impact. DPAM will always be a very special place to me."
Widholm's final day at DePaul Art Museum is July 15.
DePaul University has named Laura-Caroline de Lara as interim director of DPAM to lead the museum during this transition. De Lara joined DPAM in 2016 as Collection and Exhibition Manager and became associate director earlier this year.
Over the past four years at DPAM, de Lara has worked closely with Widholm to raise DPAM's profile and create a solid foundation for the young museum. Together, they developed a collection vision statement for the museum, defining the types of artists, themes and artworks that drive DPAM's collecting focus, as well as a sustainable accessibility plan to create a more inclusive and equitable experience for all museum visitors.
In her current role, de Lara manages the museum's exhibitions, collection and budget. She also supervises a team of student employees. She frequently engages with DePaul University faculty and students, offering exhibition and collection tours as well as professional discussions.
“I am thrilled that Laura-Caroline accepted the role of interim director of DPAM," says Robert Karpinski, associate vice president for Academic and Library Affairs at DePaul. “I have every confidence that the momentum and growth achieved under Julie's leadership will continue with Laura-Caroline taking the lead. DPAM plays an important role at DePaul University, in the city of Chicago and in the art world around the country. Laura-Caroline is stepping in at an exciting time for DPAM."
Due to COVID-19 related health and safety concerns, DePaul Art Museum will be closed through the remainder of this calendar year, with a projected reopening date of early January 2021. Though the building will be closed, a site-specific installation by Los Angeles-based artist Kathryn Andrews will be on view in DPAM's front-facing windows this fall. The work, which coincides with the upcoming presidential election, will feature the major party women who have run for U.S. president.
The museum encourages the DePaul and greater Chicago community to stay engaged online through social media, email newsletters, and free virtual events. More information can be found online at