DePaul Art Museum’s Julie Rodrigues Widholm to head up Berkeley’s BAMPFA

The new director of the UC Berkeley-owned art museum replaces outgoing head Lawrence Rinder who stepped down earlier this year.

Julie Rodrigues Widholm, newly appointed director of BAMPFA. Photo: Whitney Bradshaw

The UC Berkeley-owned Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) has appointed a new director to replace outgoing head Lawrence Rinder who stepped down earlier this year.

Julie Rodrigues Widholm, currently the Director and Chief Curator of the DePaul Art Museum  in Chicago, where she has served since 2015, will take up the reins on Aug. 1.

“Julie Rodrigues Widholm stood out among a stellar and diverse slate of candidates for her strong management experience, artistic vision, passion for equity in the arts, and deep commitment to the teams she leads,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a release issued Thursday.

During her tenure at the DePaul Art Museum, Widholm increased attendance by 40%, tripled its annual operating budget and expanded the museum’s 3,000-work collection by more than 500 artworks, with a particular emphasis on work by under-recognized artists from marginalized groups, according to the BAMPFA statement.


Under Widholm, diversity and inclusion were central components of the Chicago museum’s mission. In an interview with the New York Times published today, Widholm said, “I’m really trying to see this moment and all of the challenges we’re facing as an opportunity to make the changes that we should have been making and thinking about all along.”.

Widholm joins the Berkeley museum, which includes the Pacific Film Archive, one of the nation’s leading film archives and repertory cinematheques, at a challenging time. BAMPFA closed its doors after the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect in March. It has been running some online programming since then, and hopes to reopen in September. Prior to the pandemic, BAMPFA’s attendance had more than doubled since its move, in 2016, to an eye-catching new home in downtown Berkeley designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

BAMPFA’s art collection now counts more than 28,000 works — a notable addition was last year’s bequest of the world’s largest private collection of African American quilts, which now accounts for 15% of the museum’s art holdings. The museum’s current main exhibition is Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective, a solo show of the work of the African American quilter who lived in Richmond. (A virtual tour of the show is online.)

“I am incredibly honored to join BAMPFA at this critical juncture to work collaboratively with staff, colleagues, faculty, students, and other stakeholders in the community to think deeply about what it means to be an inclusive academic art museum in the 21st century,” Widholm said in today’s release. “I have long admired BAMPFA’s program, including the MATRIX program’s longstanding role in bringing emerging and under-recognized contemporary artists to the fore. I am particularly excited about the unique possibilities the Pacific Film Archive offers in dialogue with visual arts on view in the galleries, public programs, and community outreach to explore the most urgent social, cultural, and artistic questions of our time through a lens that is international, intersectional, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational.”

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.