An Art Barn Employee Spotlight: Julia Holmaas

An Art Barn Employee Spotlight: Julia Holmaas

“So many people come into my class and say, ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler’, but my advice to them is to not worry about it. Just have fun.” 

Julia Holmaas’s retired life is a busy one. After retiring from the National Park Service 12 years ago, her life is now filled with many activities, including help run events and find a new direction for the Art Barn in Valparaiso.

Holmaas discovered Art Barn in the late 90’s after moving to Northwest Indiana for her work at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Beginning as a student herself, Holmaas took classes at Art Barn until she became a teacher a few years later. Now, Holmaas serves as the Board President, Program Director, and as an instructor. On weeknights, she works with adults who are new to creative endeavors. In her class, called “Monday Night Watercolor”, she demonstrates the basics of watercolor and painting. 

Before Holmaas retired and discovered Art Barn, she worked for the National Park Service as the Chief of Interpretation creating interpretive, education, and environmental programs, working with staff to create an informative environment for the public. While she was with the National Park Program, Holmaas started the Artist in Residence program and was a part of the early stages in creating the National Lakeshore Learning Center. 

Helping the National Park Service grow their programs over the years is something she wants to continue doing while balancing her current job at Art Barn. She enjoys teaching her Monday classes, but keeping the organization moving forward with new classes and events is another great passion. When the founder of Art Barn, Jan Sullivan, died three years ago; Holmaas wanted to make sure the organization continued to head in a positive direction and begin a new renaissance. 

Three years ago, Holmaas and the rest of the team at Art Barn founded the ‘Art Blitz’, a festival bringing the public and the arts together. Holmaas uses this event to speak about her watercolor class and the Duneland Plein Air Painters Group, a group that Holmaas founded 12 years ago. Plein Air is a manner of painting in an outdoor setting, where the rules are looser; there isn’t a predetermined outcome to Plein Air painting. Holmaas will be selling some of her work at the Art Blitz event, where the proceeds will go back into helping Art Barn and the Duneland Plein Air Painters Group.

“There will be other booths and artists at the event,” Holmaas explained, “but the goal of the Art Blitz is getting people to enjoy Art Barn and enjoy art! That’s what it’s all about, really.”

When Holmaas isn’t painting in watercolor, she is experimenting with oils, reading, knitting, hiking, studying botany, spending time with her husband, and capturing photography. Holmaas has a real interest in photography, and when she’s taking pictures, she reflects on how different photography is from painting. 

“When I was clicking pictures, I realized that I wasn’t seeing what I was doing, just clicking. But when I paint, I have a chance to study and learn the landscape and the colors, rather than just clicking,” she said. 

Her well-rounded artistic life and her duties at Art Barn make her life very busy. There are times when Holmaas can’t find the time to sit down and paint. Yet, the artistic communities within Northwest Indiana contribute to her life and make her busy time well spent. 

“The artistic group here in the Region is a great one, it’s a fun one to be involved in,” Holmaas said. 

The Art Blitz event this year will take place on September 21st and 22nd. This year, the event will feature artists such as Holmaas’s Plein Air Group and include art demonstrations, art-making, live music, a petting zoo, wine tasting, food, and more. You can learn more about the Art Blitz event at Art Barn’s website at

You can also learn more about Holmaas’s Monday night watercolor class on the class tab on the Art Barn website There, you can find adult classes, workshops, children’s classes, children’s summer camps, and more.