By Jannette J. Witmyer
Special to the AFRO

“Validation” is the word that artist Joyce J. Scott says first comes to mind when asked how it feels to be recognized as the 2020 recipient of the American Craft Council Gold Medal for Consummate Craftsmanship, but she quickly discards that explanation as “just a word that pops up that people use in regard to things like this…”  

Then, after a moment’s reflection, she says with a laugh, “I think it’s more of a big old sloppy kiss and a hug from those that I’ve worked with and from those who see that what I’ve done came straight from my heart and was a culmination of all of those people who supported little Joyce all the way up to incredibly large Joyce.”

Artist Joyce J. Scott (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Although she responds with humor, Scott is dead serious about the importance of the award, her work, and their realized and potential impact. Every two years, the American Craft Council recognizes a Fellow of the Council with the ACC Gold Medal for Consummate Craftsmanship, an award for a lifetime of achievements. Scott was elected into the College of Fellows in 2000 and, once elected, became a fellow for life. After being nominated by the College of Fellows, the recipient is ultimately selected by the American Craft Council board of trustees. She knows that this award comes as recognition from her peers.

“For me to get this big hug from my colleagues… They watched me continually work, and they celebrate that part of my life with me because this is a celebration. It’s not only an honor being bestowed upon me, but it’s a celebration of craft and of those who make craft with me.”

Scott considers herself a craftsman and an artist, equally. She is clear in her valuation when speaking of the fields of crafts and art. “Some people don’t understand how profoundly necessary it is to be a good craftsman as well as a good artist. I consider them to be of equal worth,” she says and then explains, “I spring from a well, from a fount of African-American artists who were craft people, who were folks that not only made art because they understood the aesthetics of it but because of how functional it was. I’m proud of that.”

A large part of her appreciation for the award stems from her appreciation of the ACC’s role as an organization that helps to service and promote the art of craft. “It is important because not only do craftsmen want to learn, be together, and have their work shown, but it’s important because it helps retain the history of crafts, the knowledge and learning of crafts, the archiving of crafts… So, it is a repository, not only for what has happened in the past but as a learning instrument for the future,” she explains.

Always one to recognize and bring social implications to the fore, Scott also reflects on the importance of receiving the award as an African American and how it says to others that “the art that we do is of import as well.” She is the first African-American woman to be recognized with the honor.

“It can be seismic because we are going through a time in our society now all the “isms” are being challenged, and so my being a woman, and my being an African-American woman, an African-American woman who glows as an artist, an artist who is a craft person… All of these things are very potent. I know for me as a young person it would have been potent to see an African-American woman being lauded in this way.”

Joyce J. Scott, along with the other 2020 ACC Honorees, will be recognized, Oct. 24, during a formal ceremony at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Final plans are forthcoming. Additional information about the 2020 ACC Honorees and updates can be found at https://craftcouncil.org/post/celebrating-50-years-awards-honoring-distinction-craft-field.

February 21 – 23, 2020, the American Craft Council’s American Craft Show will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, presenting the work of 600 craft artists. For additional information and tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/american-craft-show-baltimore-february-21-23-2020-tickets-83628638509.