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Heather Shirey

Professor and Chair, Art History

American Culture and Difference
Art History
Diversity Leadership

  • Education
  • BA, University of Iowa
    MA, Tulane University
    PhD, Indiana University
  • Expertise
  • Art of the African Diaspora, Street Art, History of Photography

As art historians and citizens of the world, it is essential for us to engage deeply and analytically with visual culture, both in the classroom in our everyday lives. Topics of interest in my courses include race & identity, migrations & diasporas, and museums & their communities. My research focuses on the arts of the African Diaspora, the history of photography, and global street art.

I am the co-director of Urban Art Mapping Research Project, a multi-disciplinary group of faculty and students engaged in the analysis of art in the streets since 2018. We are actively documenting and analyzing street art created in the context of Covid-19 (Urban Art Mapping: COVID-19 Street Art) and the 2020 Uprisings (George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art)

George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art

Urban Art Mapping: COVID-19 Street Art

2023. “Art in the Streets: Playful Politics in the Work of the Velvet Bandit and Sudalove,” in Anna Beresin and Julia Bishop, Play in a COVID Frame: Everyday Pandemic Creativity in a Time of Isolation, Open Book Publishers.

2023. With Todd Lawrence. “Spreading Through the Streets: The COVID-19 Street Art Database,” Journal of Folklore Research, 60, no. 1: 27-42.

2021. With Todd Lawrence, and Paul Lorah, “Mapping Art, Narrative, and Community in St. Paul, Minnesota” in Tijen Tunali, ed. Art and Gentrification in the Changing Neoliberal Landscape.

2021. With Todd Lawrence, “Creating a Global Archive of Covid-19 Street Art,” Nuart Journal, v. 5.

2020. With Summer Erickson and Chioma Uwagwu, “Preserving Plywood Protest Art: Minneapolis and Saint Paul after George Floyd,” Urban Creativity Scientific Journal, v. 2, n.1, 82-88.

2019. “Engaging Black European Spaces and Postcolonial Dialogues through Public Art: Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. Open Cultural Studies, special issue on “Contemporary African and Black Diasporic Spaces in Europe,” volume 3, 362-372.

2018. “What does the Baiana really have? The Baiana and African-Brazilian Identity,” in Patrick A. Polk, Roberto Conduru, Sabrina Gledhill, and Randal Johnson, eds., Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis, 130-141. University of California Los Angeles.

2017. “Pierre Verger, Roger Bastide, and A Cigarra: Photography and Anthropology in the Popular Press,” Anthropology and Photography, November.

2013. "Review of Capone, Stefania. Searching for Africa in Brazil: Power and Tradition in Candomblé." H-AfrArts, H-Net Reviews. March.

2012. “Constructing Meaning: Candomblé Beads and Identity in Salvador da Bahia Brazil.” Nova Religio, volume 16.1, August.

2012. “Meticulous Production and the Embodiment of History: María Magdalena Campos-Pons's My Mother Told Me I Am Chinese Series,” in Vanessa K. Valdés, ed. The Future is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2012. “Ancestry, Art and Commodity: María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s My Mother Told Me I Am Chinese series,” Conference Proceedings from “Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora.” SUNY Press.

2010. “María Magdalena Campos-Pons: New Investigations into Diasporic Identity and History, Review of Life Has Not Even Begun, new work by María Magdalena Campos-Pons at Glass Curtain Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago, January 26-March 6 2009.” African Arts. 43:4 (Winter), 84-86.

2010. "Review of Beatriz Góis Dantas, Nagô Grandma and White Papa: Candomblé and the Creation of Afro-Brazilian Identity," Journal of Folklore Research Reviews, May.

2009. “Transforming the Orixás: Candomblé in Sacred and Secular Spaces in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil” African Arts. 42:2, Winter, 62-79.

2009. “Dialogue Essay: Dreams of Home in Expanding Diasporas,” African Arts. 42:2 Summer, 7-11.

2008. "Review of Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics." H-AfrArts, H-Net Reviews. December.

2007. "Review of Santería Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion by David H. Brown and The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World edited by Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs." African Arts, Winter, 93-95.

GoIndigo International Graffiti Symposium, Vienna, Austria (presented remotely), “Analyzing the Geography of Street Art,” with Paul Lorah. June 18, 2023.

MN+ Digital Collections Conference and Minnesota Digital Library Annual Meeting, “Voices of the People: Street Art and Community Archiving,” with Christy Dent, October 17, 2022.

Digital Realities: Political Imagery in Times of Covid-19, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, Germany (presented remotely), “Covid-19 Street Art and Political Imagery,” December 15, 2021.

12th Annual Conference on the Image, Lisbon, Portugal (presented remotely) “Art in the Streets in the Context of Quarantine: Covid-19 Street Art,” September 13-14, 2021.

FORMA(T): Documenting, Collecting, and Archiving Street Art in Theory and Practice, Ljubljana, Slovenia (presented remotely) “Archiving and activism in theory and in practice: The George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art Database,” June 30, 2021.

Art in the City Conference: Urban Space, Art, and Social Change, “Mapping Resistance: The Geo-Spatial Dimensions of the George Floyd Uprising in the Twin Cities” Aarhus University, Denmark (presented remotely). Paper presentation with Todd Lawrence, Paul Lorah, and Olivia Tjoksrosetio, April 30, 2021.

College Art Association, “Reflecting Community and Shaping Change in a Mid-Sized Urban Setting: Public Art’s Role in Promoting, Resisting and Controlling Gentrification in Three Distinct Neighborhoods.” Paper Presentation (presented remotely), February 2021.

Art Historians of the Twin Cities, “Mapping Protest Art in the Streets,” (presented remotely). Paper presentation with Todd Lawrence, January 16, 2021.

Art: What is it Good For? “Mapping Street Art and the Global Response to Covid-19” Linneaus University, Sweden (presented remotely). Paper presentation, August 20, 2020.

Urban Creativity Conference, “Landscapes of Protest: Demanding Social Justice and Equality through Anti-Racist Street Art in the Twin Cities,” Lisbon, Portugal (presented remotely). Paper presentation with Todd Lawrence, Paul Lorah, Tiaryn Daniels, Summer Erickson, Hannah Shogren-Smith, and Chioma Uwagwu, July 9, 2020.

CHI 2020 Workshop, “Mixed Reality collaboration for Contextualizing Immersive Spaces,” https://www.socialvr-ws.com/. Position paper presentation with Thomas Marrinan, Leah Emerson, and Theresa Malloy. Presented digitally by Dr. Marrinan, April 25-30, 2020.

Rebel Streets: Urban Space, Art, and Social Movements, “The Urban art, Landscapes, and Community Stories Project: Mapping art, narrative, and community in St. Paul, Minnesota,” University of Tours, France, Paper presentation with Todd Lawrence, Paul Lorah, Martin Beck, Tiaryn Daniels, Hannah Shogren-Smith, and Chioma Uwagwu, May 28, 2019.

Midwest Art History Society Annual Conference, “Roundtable on Street Art Research and New Technology,” March 23, 2019.

Association for the Worldwide Study of the African Diaspora conference, Helemozão’s Gorda Flor and the “Eternal” Image of Black Female Identity in Brazil,” Paper presentation, November 9, 2017.

Midwest Art History Society Annual Conference, “Yinka Shonibare, Nelson’s Ship, and the Black Atlantic Invasion of Trafalgar Square,” Paper presented by Dr. Matthew Rarey on the author’s behalf, April 6, 2017.

College Art Association Annual Conference, “Teaching Contentious Issues in the Introductory Art History Course,” Paper presentation, February 11, 2017.

University of London Institute of Historical Research, Colonial/Postcolonial Seminar, “Engaging Postcolonial Dialogues Through Public Art: Yinka Shonibare’s Ship in a Bottle,” Paper presentation, January 31, 2017.

Ironbridge International Institute for Culture Heritage Urban Heritage Conference, “Representing Resistance to Slavery in the Urban Landscape: Memorials in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil,” Paper presentation, Taipei, Taiwan, March 2016.

Association for the Worldwide Study of the African Diaspora Conference, “Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle and London’s African Diaspora,” Paper presentation, Charleston, November 2015.

Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage Transatlantic Dialogues on Cultural Heritage Conference, “Pierre Verger, Photography, and Transatlantic Dialogues,” Paper presentation, Liverpool, England, July 2015.

Latin American Studies Association Annual Conference, “The Image of the Baiana in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil,” Paper presentation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 2015.

Royal Anthropological Institute Anthropology and Photography Conference, “Pierre Verger and the Construction of Purity in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil,” Paper presentation, London, May 2014.

“Street Art and Community Protest,” workshop for Saint Paul Public School teachers, November 18, 2022.

“Ethnographic Methods in Documenting Street Art,” Butler University, November 20, 2022

“Archiving Street Art,” Butler University, October 9, 2022.

“Street Art and the Art of Protest,” Butler University, October 8, 2022.

“Street Art and Protest,” Macalaster College, October 13, 2021.

“Street Art, Protest, and Well-Being,” Hobart and William Smith Colleges, October 20, 2021.

“In the Streets and On the Walls: George Floyd Protest Art,” University of California, Irvine, May 25, 2021.

“Mapping Resistance: George Floyd and Protest Art in the Twin Cities,” Augsburg University, May 24, 2021.

“Mapping Protest Art in the Twin Cities,” University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences Teach-In Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

“An Introduction to Street Art,” Bryant University, April 13, 2021.

“Street Art and Protest,” Keynote address for University of Oregon Graduate Student Symposium, April 17, 2021.

“Protest Art and Anti-Racism,” Western Kentucky Folklife Network, March 5-6, 2021.

“Urban Art Mapping: Mapping Protest Art,” Georgia State University, March 2, 2021.

“Archiving Street Art: Practical Approaches,” University of St. Catherine, February 20, 2021.

“Street Art and Protest in the Twin Cities,” Minneapolis College of Art and Design, December 5, 2020.

“Street Art and Crisis,” St. Olaf College, November 20, 2020.

“Archiving Street Art,” Presentation for University of St. Catherine MLIS Graduate Program, November 10, 2020.

“Collections Care and Social Justice,” Panelist for Foundation for Advancement in Conservation, November 9, 2020.

“Mapping Street Art,” Plenary lecture for the Upper Midwest Digital Collections Conference,” November 6, 2020.

“Mapping Street Art in the Twin Cities,” Harvard University, October 27, 2020.

“A Conversation about Public Art and Memory,” Panel discussion for Minnesota Historical Society, October 22, 2020.

“Mapping Street Art and the Activist Archive,” Presentation for Twin Cities Archives Roundtable, October 8, 2020.

“Covid-19 in Street Art,” University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, September 8, 2020.

“Covid-19 and Global Street Art,” Panel discussion on CoVid-19: Critical/Creative Studies in Music, Image, and Text, Northwestern University, August 2020.

“Landscapes of Protest: Demanding Social Justice and Equality through Anti-Racist Street Art in the Twin Cities,” Minneapolis Women’s Club, August, 2020.

“Photography and Cross-Cultural Exchange: John Thomson, Milton Miller, and Pierre Verger in China,” Tsinghua University Art Museum, March 14, 2019.

“Photography and Modern Art,” Graduate seminar at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, December 8-12, 2017.

“The Shifting Image of the Baiana and Contemporary Responses to the Representation of African Brazilian Women,” Oberlin College, October 22, 2017.

“Finding African in Brazil: Research Approaches,” Oberlin College, October 22, 2017.

“The development of the Baiana” Fowler Museum, University of California Los Angeles, in conjunction with Axé Bahia, October 19, 2017.

“Pierre Verger in Context: Shaping the Perception of Candomblé in the Popular Press,” Fowler Museum, University of California Los Angeles, in conjunction with Africa/Americas: Photographic Portraits by Pierre Verger, October 18, 2017.

“Art Collecting and Colonialism in West Africa,” Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China, June 27, 2016.

“Art History Graduate Programs in the USA,” Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China, June 27, 2016.

“Professional Development for Graduate Students,” Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing, China, June 17, 2016.

“Nationalism in the African Diaspora: Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons,” Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing, China, June 17, 2016.

"Race and Ethnicity in American Art: Deconstructing Stereotypes,” China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, June 15, 2016.

“The Ethics of Museum Collections: From Yuanmingyuan to the Benin Kingdom,” China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, June 14, 2016.

National Endowment for the Arts Research in the Arts Grant, “Black Lives Matter Street Murals: A Comparative Perspective,” 2023-2024.

SOLV/Center for the Arts and Humanities for the Common Good, University of St. Thomas, “Urban Art, Landscape, and Saint Paul Community Stories,” an interdisciplinary project with co-investigators Todd Lawrence (English) and Paul Lorah (Geography), 2018-2021.

University of St. Thomas Graduate Team Research Grant. “Street Art and Political Expression: A Comparative Approach,” with Floris Lafontant, Kira Lapinsky, and Theresa Nelson, Summer 2018.

China Academy of Art, Hangzhou China, International Office Travel Grant supporting design and implementation of “Photography and Modern Art,” a five-day graduate seminar, December 2017.

Fulbright-Terra Foundation U.S. Teaching Scholar Grant for placement at Tsinghua University, 2015-16.

University of St. Thomas Graduate Research Team Project. “Museums and African Brazilian Identity,” with Alyssa Thiede and Angela Daniels, Summer 2014.

University of St. Thomas Faculty Development Center, Level 1 Research Grant. “Pierre

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, awarded for dissertation research in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, December 2000-December 2001.