Dr. Mary Jo Watson earned three degrees from the University of Oklahoma including her B.F.A. in Art History, her M.L.S. in Seminole Aesthetics, and her Ph.D. in Native American Art History (Interdisciplinary). She currently serves as director of the School of Art and Art History; she serves as Curator of Native American art at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, where she has curated exhibitions on Inuit art and the Adkins and Strickland collections of Native arts. Watson serves on several state-wide Native American art committees including the content committee for the Oklahoma History Center for the permanent Indian exhibition, the content committee for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, serves on the Seminole Tribal Arts Council and curated the first Seminole Fine Arts exhibition. She is a consultant for the state of Oklahoma Art in Public Places Program and an honorary board member of both Red Earth and the Jacobson Foundation.
As a faculty member Dr. Watson developed the current Native Art History Program at the University of Oklahoma. Since 1994, she developed a series of undergraduate and graduate courses, including a seminar on American Indian Women Artists. She served on the original art history committee that established the first art history doctoral program in Oklahoma with its focus on Native American Art and Art of the American West. Watson has lectured throughout Oklahoma, the region and nation. She curated two traveling art exhibitions for the Oklahoma Arts Council which circulated nationally for several years. Watson serves as faculty for Native American Studies, Women’s Studies, the College of Liberal Studies and is an affiliate with International Studies.
Honors for Dr. Watson include; Paseo Art Association's Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), Regents’ Professorship, University of Oklahoma (2008), the Students’ Choice faculty award (2006); Outstanding Faculty, Center for Student Life-Indian Student Award (2003); Special Recognition for Outstanding Service by Native American Women (2003), Governor’s Art Award for Outstanding Service (2002); Oklahoma Regent’s Award for Superior Teaching (2002), College of Fine arts Outstanding Faculty Award (1997), and Governor’s Arts Award for significant contribution to enhance the arts in Oklahoma (1993).
Dr. Watson’s research focuses on the theory and development of teaching methodology for Native American art. Her career has centered around the promotion and understanding of Indian arts from ancient Maya to contemporary Native American.