“For me, it’s important to imbue the work with something that will resonate and follow somebody home…because I think art has the ability, if not to cure or heal, at least to enlighten (you), slap you in the head, wake you up.” - Joyce J. Scott
Craft In America Theme/Episode: Messages
In this lesson, students will study the sculpted beadwork of artist Joyce J. Scott. Students will watch the Messages segment, featuring Scott, from the Craft In America DVD or online. The class will examine how Scott draws viewers to her work by making her pieces beautiful, with the hope that viewers will then consider the serious issues of race, class, and gender discrimination presented within the pieces. Students will consider these issues through Scott’s work. Finally, students will determine a point of view and invent a piece with an attractive surface appeal and an underlying serious topic.
Grade Level 8-12
Estimated Time three 45-min. class periods of research, discussion & planning, followed by four or more 45-minute studio periods
Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott was five years old when she began learning needlework from her artistic mother, Elizabeth Talford Scott. Elizabeth Talford Scott used needlework out of necessity for mending worn clothes and linens. She turned the mending into an opportunity to make the items beautiful with decorative accents including crochet and embroidery. In addition to the knowledge of traditional needlework techniques, Joyce J. Scott learned from her mother the importance of memories and family history through story telling. Much of this history includes accounts of discrimination of African Americans in the days before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Scott uses the beauty of needlework to draw viewers to her art, where they then may notice the underlying content of serious issues of racial prejudice, class, and gender discrimination. Scott believes that living as an artist in Baltimore, Maryland, is integral to her continued engagement with issues of race within a community.
• People are attracted to beautiful objects.
• Artists can invent ways to make difficult topics accessible and approachable.
• Traditional craft materials and craft techniques can be used to express political content.
• Artists get ideas from memories, family stories, and by paying attention to the
world around them.
• How might an artist draw viewers’ attention to an artwork?
• In what ways might an artist convey ideas about important social issues?
• How can an artwork change a person’s opinion?
• Become familiar with the form and content of Joyce J. Scott’s work.
• Consider issues of race, class, and gender discrimination and develop a point of view about one of these or other social issues.
• Imitate or invent methods of creating richly embellished surfaces.
• Identify an issue or idea, and present it in a format designed to engage a viewer.
History/Social Studies: Studying Scott’s work could align with a study of the struggles of the Civil Rights movement in America.
Language Arts: The activity in which students are encouraged to identify a point of view and develop justification for it could be extended within a Language Arts context.
4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others.
• Craft in America DVD: Messages. Also viewable online at PBS.org & on the PBS iPhone/iPad app.
• Goya Contemporary gallery features Joyce J. Scott’s work.
• Mobilia Gallery also features Joyce J. Scott’s work.
• The Baltimore Museum of Art has a teacher packet featuring Joyce J. Scott, along with slides, available from the Educator’s Resources section of the BMA website.
• A local bead artist could be brought in to demonstrate beading techniques to students. A store that sells beads may be willing to share a teaching experience with students.
• The National Archives has an explanation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and copies of the original documents.
• The photographs of Gordon Parks could also be used to depict the era before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some can be found in the collections of the Library of Congress.
Materials for Studio Production:
Note: Joyce J. Scott uses bead-weaving techniques to create her sculptural pieces. Other embellishment materials can be used to create an attractive, eye-catching surface treatment on an artwork with an issue-based underlying content. The following materials can be collected to that end, and students given the opportunity to choose:
Materials for Studio Beadwork:
• Beading needles
• Glass or plastic seed beads
• Embroidery floss and embroidery needles
Materials for Studio Embellishment:
Encourage students to collect items such as the following:
• seashells, beads of all kinds, old jewelry, buttons, yarns, strings and cords, artificial flowers, hardware pieces, foil and metallic packaging and wrappers, sequins, old ornaments, mosaic-style shards of glazed pottery, glitter, etc.
• Items to embellish or cover: ready-made discarded items, knick-knacks and castoffs, armatures made of crumpled and wrapped paper and tape, socks stuffed with paper, fiberfill or rags