About Don Widmer


Artist Statement


I'm Don Widmer and I combine hand papermaking, bookbinding, and printing to create works inspired by storytelling and real and imagined histories. My sculptural artist books include my own writing and incorporate unusual book structures featuring movement and light. I create images within sheets of handmade paper using plant pulp as a painting medium, a technique called Pulp Painting. As a papermaker, I am fascinated by the ability of pulp to represent both living creatures and inanimate objects, which is why I choose to paint birds as well as architectural imagery. I have been a musician and librarian but only recently started my career as an artist after receiving my MFA in book and paper arts from Columbia College Chicago. I have received several Best of Show awards and my work is represented in university, museum, library and private collections. 


Widmer has exhibited throughout the Midwest, including Gallery Studio Oh! (Chicago), Art Prize Grand Rapids, the Compassion Factory (Brookfield), Glenview Public Library, Terrain Biennial (Columbia College Chicago), Arts on Elston, Side Street Studio Arts, and Illinois Wesleyan University. His recent awards include 2nd Place (Lakeview East Festival of the Arts), Best in Show (Art on the Fox Fine Art Festival), Best in Medium (Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair), First Place Fine Art (Spring Bloom Fine Arts Festival), Judge's Choice Award (Greenwich Village Art Fair), Second Place Mixed Media (Crosby Festival of the Arts), Best in Show (West End Art Festival La Grange). Widmer has conducted papermaking workshops and demonstrations at the Elmhurst Artists' Guild, Arlington Heights Art Guild, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, and Spudnik Press. His work is represented in several university and library collections nationwide. Raised in Cleveland, Widmer received his MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts from Columbia College Chicago in May 2012. Prior to his art career, he was Library Director at VanderCook College of Music from 1996-2009.  


Solo Shows: 

  • "Pulp and Steel: an Exhibition of Architectural Pulp Paintings," The Gallery, Arzoumanian & Co. (Skokie, Illinois), November 5-30, 2016
  • "Artist Books by Don Widmer," Ames Library, Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, Illinois), May 1-31, 2013

Group Shows (Selected List):

  • "Who's Afraid of Red?" Gallery Studio Oh! (Chicago, Illinois), November-December 2019
  • Arnold Grummer Paperfest III (Green Lake, Wisconsin), October 2019, Honorable Mention Award
  • "Remnants: Works on Paper," Gallery Studio Oh! (Chicago, Illinois), March 2019
  • "Six Legs & Wings," Brecksville Center for the Arts (Brecksville, Ohio), September 2018
  • "Paper and Stitch," Compassion Factory (Brookfield, Illinois), August 2018
  • "Five Years Later," Agitator Gallery (Chicago, Illinois), November 2017
  • "Words Matter," Arts on Elston (Chicago, Illinois), October, 2016 
  • "Words Matter," Arts on Elston (Chicago, Illinois), October, 2015 
  • "Objects of Desire," a one-day papermaking workshop/exhibit (part of Victory Gardens: Terrain Biennial at the Papermaker's Garden), Columbia College Chicago (Chicago, Illinois), September 24, 2015 
  • "More Than," part of Elgin Literary Festival, Side Street Studio Arts (Elgin, Illinois), February 6-8, 2015 


  • Honorable Mention, Arnold Grummer Paperfest III (October 2019)
  • Second Place, Lakeview East Festival of the Arts (September 2019)
  • First Place, Art on the Fox Fine Art Festival (June 2019)
  • Best in Medium, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair (June 2019)
  • Best in Show, Art on the Fox Fine Art Festival (June 2018)
  • President's Award, Art on the Fox Fine Art Festival (June 2018)
  • Best in Medium, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair (June 2018)
  • First Place Fine Art, Spring Bloom Fine Arts Festival (March 2018)
  • Judge's Choice Award, Greenwich Village Art Fair (September 2017)
  • Second Place Mixed Media, Crosby Festival of the Arts (June 2017)
  • Best in Medium, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair (June 2017)
  • Best in Show, West End Art Festival La Grange (September 2016)
  • Best in Medium, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair (June 2016)
  • Best in Show, For the Love of Art Elkhart (March 2016) 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Category, Buffalo Grove Art Festival (July 2015)
  • Redhead Design Studio Honorary Award, East Lansing Art Festival (May 2015)
  • Designers Choice Award, American Society of Interior Designers Illinois, One of a Kind Show, Chicago (December 2013)
  • Audience Favorite Award, The Landscape is Changing: Chicago, Framing Mode and Gallery (October 2013)


My work can be found in the following collections:

  • Newberry Library
  • DePaul University
  • Ohio University
  • University of Washington
  • Glessner House Museum
  • Illinois Wesleyan University
  • UCLA
  • Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation
  • Florida State University