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Heather Orr

Heather Orr

Professor of Art History
Quigley Hall 231


Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, Art History, 1996
M.A., University of Victoria, B.C. Canada, Art History, 1991
B.A., University of Victoria, B.C. Canada, Art History, 1989


Heather Orr, Ph.D., specialized in the Precolumbian art history of Mexico (Oaxaca) and Costa Rica. She has published extensively on her research, has taught the Art History program at Western Colorado University since 1997, has served as Art Department Chair, and was the lead founder of the MGMM program.

How did you discover Western?

Riding through Gunnison on the Greyhound bus during my doctoral studies. A beautiful campus in paradise! I told myself that this is where I wanted to work, and I’ve been here for 21 years!

What are some of the highlights of your career?

I was the program director on the development, implementation and successful first two years of the M.A. in Gallery and Museum Management program. The publication of two highly collaborative edited books in my field: “Blood and Beauty, Organized Violence in the Art of Mesoamerica and Central America” and “Wearing Culture, Dress and Regalia in Early Mesoamerica and Central America.” Travelling to Italy as the accompanying art historian for the Art in Italy program with program instructors Drs. Seastrum and Edwards, and a wonderful group of Western students.

What most excites you about your field?

Art history as a discipline is intensely multi-disciplinary and collaborative. It provides us with the History IN Art, unlocking the visual record and providing us with key insights into other eras and cultures. Working and teaching in my field energize me, as each day is an intellectual voyage.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

The physical beauty takes my breath away daily, and the sense of community runs deep here.


  • Western Colorado University
    • Professor of Art History, appointed 1997
  • University of Victoria, Canada
    • Adjunct and Sessional Professor
  • University of Texas at Austin
    • Teaching Assistant
  • University of Victoria, Canada
    • Teaching Assistant

Select Publications

2003 – Stone Balls and Masked Men: Ballgame as Combat Ritual, Dainzú, Oaxaca. Ancient America, 5.

2001 – Recitales e Imagineria: La estructura y narrativa de los programas escultoricos del periodo Formativo Tardio del Valle de Oaxaca. In: Nelly Robles Garcia, ed., Procesos de cambio y conceptualización del tiempo, Memoria de la Primera Mesa Redonda de Monte Alban, 2001. Mexico: INAH.

2001 – Procession Rituals and Shrine Sites: The Politics of Sacred Space in the Late Formative Valley of Oaxaca. In: K. Reese-Taylor, R. Koontz, and A. Headrick, editors, Landscape and Power in Ancient Mesoamerica. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Co-Authored Publications

1997 – The Role of Zapotec Genealogical Records in Late Precolumbian Valley of Oaxaca Political History. Second author with Marilyn Masson. Mexicon XX (1): 10-16.

1997 – The Writing on the Wall: Political Representation and Sacred Geography at Monte Alban in Programs of Building Dedication, Nahual Transformation, and Captive Sacrifice. Second author with Marilyn Masson. In The Sowing and the Dawning: Termination and Dedication Processes in the Archaeological and Ethnological Record of Mesoamerica, edited by Shirley Boteler Mock. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Campus Contributions

  • Serves as member of several standing committees

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