Hall of Fame Member Biographies

Mary Jo Watson

Insuring the artistic legacy of Native American peoples achieves a wide audience has been the lifelong journey of Mary Jo Watson.  She has tirelessly given her time and energy to build Native American art centers and to give public lectures around the country and especially in her native state of Oklahoma.   Only second in her allegiances is her love of the University of Oklahoma.  She earned all three degrees at the institution: her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1974, her Master of Liberal Studies in 1979, and the Ph.D. in 1993.  She taught for three years at Seminole Junior College and one year at Bishop McGuiness High School; she then became Director of the Center of the American Indian in Oklahoma City from 1979 to 1988.  At the same time she became an adjunct instructor at OU in 1978, later a faculty member in the OU School of Art and Art History in 1993, Associate Dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts in 2002, and then Director of the School of Art and Art History in 2006.  She established, along with Dr. Andrew Phelan, the first Ph.D. program for Native American art in the United States.  She has earned two National Science Foundation grants and one from the National Endowment of the Arts.  She has tirelessly served as a juror for exhibitions and as a curator and consultant for museums specializing in Native American collections such as the James Bialac Collection (Phoenix), Fred Jones J. Museum of Art, Northwestern Plains Annual Indian Art Exhibition (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), as well as innumerable assistance to museums in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Muskogee, Tahlequah, and Norman.  She has given over 100 presentations about Native American art, in such locales as Beijing, China, Little Rock, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Portland, Tempe, Louisville, and Washington, D.C.  She was chosen as one of the jurors for the 2009 Native American Art Market in Santa Fe, has won two Governor’s Art Awards (one for service and one for education), and was given the Paseo Art Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2010).  For the people of Oklahoma, she has given endlessly of her expertise.  In 2008 the University of Oklahoma bestowed upon her the position of Regents Professor.  For her devotion to the people of Oklahoma and to Native Americans, the OHEHS proudly inducts Mary Jo Watson into the 2014 class of the Higher Education Hall of Fame.