Joyce J. Scott: ‘Creator. Changemaker. Pioneer’

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From the womb she knew she’d be an artist. Of course her mother was master quilt maker Elizabeth Talford Scott, so that might have been a clue. But in her own right, Joyce J. Scott, the “artist in vitro” as she calls herself, has walked in her gift to be art, so much so that even by high school, she had been voted “most artistic” by her Eastern High School classmates. She continues to excel at every art genre she embraces and the world celebrates her consistency and her portfolio.

It was recently announced that the California College of Art (CCA) is awarding Scott an honorary doctorate degree at their May 20 commencement. In addition to speaking at the undergraduate ceremonies, she will conduct a conference during her visit.

Joyce J. Scott performs in the well received, infamously raucous Thunder Thigh Review in 2012. Her performance partner is Kay Lawal-Muhammad. (Photo by Jannette Witmyer)

Byron Kuth, managing principal at Kuth Ranieri Architects, chairs the Board of Trustees Academic Committee. “Joyce’s esteemed artistic career and dedication to social activism embodies CCA’s core values,” Kuth says. “CCA teaches students that art is an industry that opens up a world of infinite possibilities, powered by innovation and inspiration. Joyce’s 50-year career is a testament to that truth.”

Provost Tammy Rae Cartland, main senior staff representative working with the trustee board’s academic committee agreed heartily.

“We are thrilled to present Joyce Scott with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. Her art represents what’s possible when we use craftsmanship to communicate what matters to us,“ Cartland said. “The beauty and intricacy of her art immediately draws you in, she uses narrative objects to investigate the past and shape the future. Ms. Scott is a thinker, a creator, and a changemaker — a true pioneer in her field.”

Scott is also an impassioned teacher, always looking for ways to share her life with young people.

“Of course I’m a visionary,” Scott said, responding to a question concerning her recently receiving the Smithsonian Visionary Award.

“Why wouldn’t I spend time talking to the children in our schools, in our neighborhoods. It’s the only way art lives on for generations.” She said this is the most important part.

“I want them to know I’m just an around the way girl from Baltimore, and that, as the same, they can also pursue whatever vision they have for their lives.”She wants them to use their art or whatever their gift is to actively pursue justice, as she does with her pieces.

“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,” one of Scott’s well known quotes.

When a young neighbor expressed an interest in jewelry making, Joyce arranged a workshop in her studio space so she could learn, according to long time friend Jannette Witmyer.

“She’s done the same thing for other artists and friends. Someone mentions an interest in learning a technique and the next thing you know, she has given an artist a job teaching a workshop and scholarships to several participants, if it’s not free,” Witmyer said.

Most importantly, she has a heart as large as her art portfolio. She gathers friends annually to make sure children’s wants are met at Christmas.

“She calls us the ‘Sugar Mamas,’” said Witmyer, one of the group.

“Five years ago the two of us paid off layaways for families at Christmas and that has now blossomed into a group of at least 24 women who provided Christmas for four families in 2018.”