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Artists have strong ideas and opinions. These are the inspirations, along with their skills, that they use to imbue their work with meaning, prove a point or suggest alternatives. Artists are often driven to use their creativity for what they consider to be the greater good.

The greater good is difficult to achieve, but the artists who dedicate themselves to a cause can make a difference. We see the devastation wrought by natural and manmade emergencies and often feel powerless. Artists, through their works, empower us to improve a situation or change the course of events. We, as the audience, are able to understand and act when inspired by the artist. What has inspired the artists who are included in the Messages episode of Craft in America?

Wall Street, Storm Cycle Series

Thomas Mann, Markings No. 4 - Wall Street, Storm Cycle Series, Will Crocker photograph

Thomas Mann, New Orleans jewelry artist and sculptor, created the Storm Cycle series to share the personal stories of Hurricane Katrina, the individual experiences that changed lives but were not reported in the media. In Tom's words, "I believe that the topics I've chosen for the themes of the panels in Storm Cycle depict an alternative angle of view of the event, one that maintains a sense of humor about the human condition and our sense of resilience to catastrophe while pointing out the foibles and contradictions of the power structures we expect to protect us. It is also my clear intent to keep the plight of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast alive in the mind of America via the medium of the arts."

Man Eating Watermelon

Joyce J. Scott, Man Eating Watermelon, 1986, Kanji Takeno photograph

Joyce J. Scott, Baltimore bead artist, uses her knowledge of glass, quilting, printmaking and performance to comment on issues as diverse as race, feminism, and the scourge of drugs on the inner city. Joyce comments on her work: "I skirt the borders between comedy, pathos, delight and horror. I invite the viewer to laugh at our collective selves. Humans are hilariously precocious." By making art that attracts by its brilliant color and sparkle, she entices us to look, and by looking, we are forced to confront issues that we would rather not have to deal with. All the while, Joyce maintains a joy that imbues her work with energy and beauty.

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Many craft artists go beyond skill to personal and political expression.


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Craft In America Educational Materials look further at Messages as a concept in craft. Visit the EDUCATION section HERE > to see what's available and download a Lesson Guide.

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We filmed artist Thomas Mann for the MESSAGES episode. Learn more about the series HERE >

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View addtional clips and images from Messages at pbs.org/arts

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