Class Notes Profile: Inclusive Curator

Julie Rodrigues Widholm expands the canon

Museum director and curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm’s “permission to be curious” was fostered by her grandmother and honed at Krannert Art Museum. Her sphere of influence runs the gamut from Colombian visual artist and sculptor, Doris Salcedo, to PBS cultural phenomenon, Bob Ross. (Image by Jesse Meria)
Julie Rodrigues Widholm expands the canon

For many, COVID-19 meant hunkering down to work from home. Not so for Chicagoan Julie Rodrigues Widholm, ’97 LAS, who was tapped early in the pandemic as the next executive director of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. The prestigious institution was impressed with Widholm’s work, which included a retrospective of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and DePaul Art Museum’s Latinx Initiative.

Widholm—who is of Portuguese, Mexican and British descent—is known for her strong commitment to diversity. “I call it expanding the canon—asking, ‘Whose voices aren’t being heard?’” she says. Bob Ross is a beneficiary of Widholm’s egalitarianism. DePaul was the first art museum to exhibit the PBS personality’s “happy little paintings.”

Widholm’s passions were sparked at Krannert Art Museum where she saw her love of all things cultural fused with her passion for art—a passion first ignited by her “bohemian” grandmother, who gave her “permission to be curious.”

In the summer of 2020, Widholm and her husband Timothy, ’98 ACES, packed up their two kids and drove west to their new home. Although BAMPFA was closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, Widholm provided patrons with virtual exhibitions and streaming cinema.

Delivering the 2020 School of Art + Design convocation address, Widholm said she was optimistic that incredible art would be born from the pandemic’s pain. “This moment has caused us to reflect deeply on what matters, and what we want to change for a better future.”