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It's important to me to use art in a manner that incites people to look and then carry something home -- even if it's subliminal -- that might make a change in them.
-- Joyce Scott
In my time, I know of no other artist in our state of Maryland who has been given this kind of exhibition. This show is making a statement -- that this artist, this work, can compete anywhere in the world.
-- George Ciscle, curator
Born and raised in Baltimore, Joyce J. Scott (b. 1948) is a descendant of African-Americans, Native Americans and Scots. Three generations of storytellers, quilters, basketmakers and wood, metal and clay workers inspire her work. Scott's earliest art lessons were received at home as she watched her mother, the renowned fiber artist Elizabeth Talford Scott, create quilts using unconventional embroidery and applique techniques.
Scott's art -- its forceful vision, biting social commentary and dazzling skill -- is grounded in weaving, quilting, beadwork and glass. Educated in Baltimore City public schools, she received her BFA in Art Education from Maryland Institute, College of Art and earned her MFA in crafts at Mexico's Institute Allende. While Scott has studied the art of Native Americans, West Africans and Central American Cuna Indians, she is just as interested in the contemporary culture as it exists on the streets of her urban neighborhood. These influences and others have played a crucial role in her interpretation of contemporary issues such as racism and violence, sexism and stereotypes.
Throughout her career, she has also been active as an art educator, presenting community-based arts programming in Baltimore and around the country. A masterful teacher, she has taught arts and crafts and family classes from the age of nine at home. She believes that knowledge must be passed on so that it will live and evolve to hopefully make the world a better place.
Scott still lives near the neighborhood where she grew up, seeing herself as a quasi-role model for area young people. But her works have reached well beyond the boundaries of her home town, where they have appeared in more than 60 solo and group exhibitions at prestigious museums in the U.S. and abroad. Among these are the American Craft Museum, NYC; The Baltimore Museum of Art; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Orlando Art Museum, Florida; the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Studio Museum, Harlem, NYC; and the Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been awarded honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Maryland State Arts Council and Anonymous was a Woman.
Joyce Scott on...
engaging the african american community
Scott video segment
Joyce Scott on...
"This is my museum from when I was a baby...I will always remember walking up those steps and through those huge front doors."
NOTE: The grand front doors of the Baltimore Museum of Art were opened for the first time in 15 years for Joyce Scott's exhibition.
"Museums, to me, are like little universities. All of these galleries are classrooms where people come and learn, and I think that kind of education changes you as a person."
"I think it was courageous for the museum to set up a stereotype wall...to let anybody write anything about stereotypes down on a piece of paper...and to not censor it. It was also a big step for the Museum to address not only racism, but also gender bias. These are issues people can spend some time with. That's what I'm looking for -- that punch that lasts after the exhibition."
"To make a difference in the lives of children, we must be much more honest and up front with them about the society we've created. I don't believe in shielding children from issues they are seeing every day. It is smarter, especially for an institution that has a charge to educate, to say, 'What is this about?'
"Just as kids go to art festivals or participate in after-school projects, they expect to come here and receive something. If they don't, they won't come. Parents will choose other places to take them, where there's a more universal, fulfilling experience. If you are in a place that is dead or comatose or only for those who think they understand, you won't come back."
"The museum and its education department were very good about bringing in busloads of kids for my show. What did the kids do? They lingered. They weren't just traipsing through the institution. And because of special training, the docents got to speak about the artwork differently. Even the guards had to know something about my show. They weren't just there saying, "Don't touch that!' (Actually, a lot of times they were yelling at me, "Don't touch that!')"
"First Thursday (free admission, special activities) allowed those same kids to come back with their parents. And with the workshops and outreach to schools - kids actually came here, paraded around and hung out."
"Unless children are scared because they've been told 4,000 times 'You can't touch, can't talk, can't walk unless you're walking in a straight line or with your partner,' it's all of interest. There was a little African American boy who came with his mom and three other kids. He was playing around the "waterfall" (This is Joyce's term for her curtain-like construction that contained many long strands of beads). There was no stanchion around it, nothing to stop him. He went up and..."plink"! The guard was right there -- he tried to catch one of the beads that fell off. I quickly got up and starting talking to the little boy so he wouldn't be afraid to wander around. We laughed and talked, and the guard stayed with us for a little bit, then stepped away. The kid talked to his mom and they walked around for a long time...for hours. I know this, because I saw them leave. It's because he wasn't afraid."
"I live across the street from a library. There was a young man who works there, I've known him for years. He said, 'You know, kids are coming in here doing their school projects on you, Joyce.'"
"I went to a library another time and kids came up to me and said, 'You signed my book yesterday. Would you sign my brother's book?'
"My mother is a woman from South Carolina who would probably not have entered into a museum without me, because it was not a place that she could easily walk into in many ways.
"What would make the museum more inviting for her? I think, for example, more First Thursday activities like we had. First Thursday is freestyle. The museum's open from 5-9 p.m. There are all kinds of activities, performances, many people, excitement, food and drinks. And it's free.
"She and her friends would have come to that -- and not just because it's an event. There was also the fact of seeing black people in the museum -- not only as guards and maintenance workers, but also showing their work, working in the education department, the curatorial department, hanging out, part of the community. It's got to be more of a collective experience. That's important."
"It's also the fact that the African American population includes many of my friends and acquaintances, teachers, etc. They are proud of me, and proud to be here. It's a kind of ownership. They want to support the institution that supports me."
"It's always proven that if there's something that's of interest to black people, we'll come, and, once here, we'll come back because other things that we didn't know existed are here for us as well."
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