Newswise — CHICAGO — Historically, art museum galleries have lacked diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, abilities, and sexual orientation, and it’s important for museums to begin to address this representation issue in order to show the wide range of human experience, said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of DePaul Art Museum located on the campus of DePaul University.

“The foundation of museums traces back to Western European colonial structures and the inequity has carried into the modern day. Male artists receive larger exhibition budgets and a larger space to exhibit their work, while female artists typically have smaller exhibitions and smaller budgets,” said Widholm.

A 2018 study of 18 major U.S. art museums published by the peer-reviewed open access scientific journal PLOS One found that 85% of artists in their collections are white and 87% are men,” according to Widholm.

In another study of 820,000 exhibitions across the public and commercial sectors in 2018 by The Art Newspaper, only one-third were by women artists, despite another study discovering that women earn 51% of the Masters of Fine Arts degrees conferred, she added.

One of Widholm’s areas of expertise is the inequitable relationship between museum exhibition spaces and the representation of diverse artists. She was named director of DePaul Art Museum in 2015. Since then, Widholm has been recognized in New City’s Art 50 Visual Vanguard several times, and was selected as the 2019 Chicagoan of the Year in museums by The Chicago Tribune.

“I want DePaul Art Museum to be a fearless leader of museum practice in the 21st century by providing artists who are not given equal opportunities a place to show the wide range of human experience,” said Widholm.

“The museum strives to be an accessible institution and a place for intellectual curiosity and learning about each other through art. Changing the landscape and providing opportunities for Chicago-based artists is how we address the issue of equity through mindful thinking about whom we’re giving space to,” she said.

Widholm’s efforts have led to the announcement of a new Latinx initiative at the museum, which comes at a critical time.

“Our initiative takes on added importance given the previously mentioned 2018 study found that Hispanic and Latinx artists constituted only 2.8% of the collections of 18 major U.S. art museums,” Widholm said. “We believe exploring the complexity and diversity of Latinx communities to bring these issues to the forefront of our cultural conversations. Is a necessary endeavor for the museum.”

More about the initiative can be found at