Moldenhauer began drawing as a young child, using black crayons and a straight edge on blank sheets of newsprint to create architecture-like structures. Her mother, a pianist, insisted that she and her siblings be introduced to music and dance resulting in a strong focus on ballet through junior high and music—as a clarinet player—through high school. Her first job was a wedding photographer in photo finishing, spotting the blemishes of pictures for a wedding photographer.
In her early college years, Moldenhauer concentrated on drawing and took every art course offered, eventually majoring in printmaking. After graduating from Northern Illinois University in 1974, she moved to Chicago where she worked as a window trimmer for a women’s clothing store and had a studio in the Contemporary Art Workshop.
In 1978 she returned to NIU to pursue a career in medical illustration. In her first semester of chemistry and comparative anatomy, she took a photography class which changed her direction back to the fine arts. During her graduate work at Penn State, she was introduced to gallery work through an assistantship in the School of Visual Arts where two years later she became its Zoller Gallery manager.
In 1986 she became the executive director of Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, VA. In her five years there, she advanced the scope of contemporary exhibitions, increased its personnel, and expanded the visibility of the gallery nationally. Within its broad-based programming focus, she exhibited photographers Sally Mann, Emmet Gowin, Shelby Lee Adams, Nicholas Nixon, and Frank Gohlke among others.
Always with an eye towards the landscape in her personal work, Moldenhauer took annual vacations in Utah to explore the American west, eventually wanting to relocate and live there. In 1991, she accepted a position at the University of Wyoming Art Museum as its curator of museum programs which coincided with the museum’s plan to relocate to a new facility designed by Antoine Predock. She oversaw its move and opening, which included a broadened exhibition program with an increased focus on contemporary art. By 2002, she became the museum’s director and chief curator.
Over the next 15 years, Moldenhauer strategically updated the museum’s programs using the collections as its core content, building a relevant exhibition series with national and international artists, updating its education and outreach programs, initiating academic engagement to enhance the student experience, and contributing to the cultural landscape of Wyoming.
Moldenhauer’s advocacy for artists and the community led to co-founding the Laramie Artist’s Project, the Laramie Mural Project, and the Laramie Public Art Coalition. Throughout her arts career, she maintained her photographic work which has included working collaboratively with other artists in Sequencing Through Time and Place and The Pipeline Art Project. She won a 2016 and 2023 Wyoming Visual Arts Fellowship Award for her photography. In 2017, she retired to focus attention on her studio practice and won a Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award. She continues to live and work in Laramie, WY.