The Catholic University of America

Elizabeth Denholm

Art History Major Planning Gallery Auction

Elizabeth Denholm, a senior art history major, spent the fall semester of her junior year in the Czech Republic. The summer before going away, she worked as an intern at Washington D.C.’s Transformer Gallery. When she returned from abroad in January, the staff at the gallery wanted to meet with her. To Denholm’s surprise, they offered her a part-time job as program assistant.

“That made me feel really good,” says Denholm, who accepted the offer from the art gallery located in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood. The University’s location was one of the main reasons that Denholm chose to attend Catholic University. She knew there were many opportunities with so many museums close to campus.

When Denholm visited CUA during the University’s spring break her senior year of high school, the campus was empty because students were away. But Nora Heimann, chair of the art history department, was there to welcome her. They talked for an hour, recalls Denholm, who always wanted to be an art history major. She says that she enjoyed their conversation and decided to enroll at Catholic University.

Now, reflecting on her time at CUA, Denholm says that Heimann has guided her and helped her to think about what she wants to do. Denholm notes that because the department is so small, Heimann has been able to talk with her for long periods of time.

“I’ve developed a more personal relationship with everyone in the department,” says Denholm.

Last year, Denholm took her favorite course so far, junior seminar with Lara Yeager-Crasselt, an art history lecturer. The course, with just one other student, focused on a new topic in art history each week, culminating in a related thesis paper. She admits that it was very difficult but worth it.

“Elizabeth demonstrated an impressive work ethic both in and outside of our junior seminar, a demanding course on a number of levels,” says Yeager-Crasselt. “Elizabeth's hard work and dedication as a student will continue to serve her well in all that she does, and will lead, no doubt, to success in her academic and professional goals.”

The work ethic she practiced during her junior seminar is helping her with her main responsibility at the gallery — assisting in organizing its November auction. The annual event is the non-profit gallery’s biggest fundraiser, and Denholm is right in the middle of making it happen.

“I sort of have a hand in everything because the staff is so small,” she says.

There are only four staff members at the gallery including Denholm. Their office is a loft complete with a ladder above the exhibition space that fits only three people at a time. The exhibition space, which is a converted alleyway, is constantly changing as new art shows of all types are displayed.

The gallery is too small to host the auction, which will be held at American University’s Katzen Arts Center. Denholm says that so far there are 100 artists confirmed to show work at the auction, which will feature sculpture, painting, photography, and drawing, among other media. The staff, including Denholm, chose one piece of work from each artist to show.

Denholm will graduate in December, a semester early, just before her 22nd birthday. She plans to continue working at the gallery after graduation. Denholm says she hopes to have a career in museum or gallery work, perhaps working in that field internationally.

Denholm says she likes art that explores sociopolitical issues, for instance, European art created between the world wars. She also enjoys Francisco Goya’s paintings inspired by the French invasion of Spain in the 19th century.

“That’s another example of something in a different time period but still a reaction to the sociopolitical realities and trying to deal with those through art,” she says.

“In some ways you can produce a painting or work of art that might reach a huge group of people,” says Denholm. “Art connects people across time, across cultures.”

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Elizabeth Denholm

Hometown: Akron, OH

A favorite genre of art: Dada

Favorite color scheme: cool colors like blues, purples, and greens

Favorite museums in D.C.: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Most beautiful spot on campus: The University Mall (across from the Basilica) at night

School involvement: Women’s rugby, student coordinator for events and marketing in the Office of Campus Activities