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New Exhibit “Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship”

On the left: a cup and bowl from a dinner set by Frank Ross. On the right: lidded vessels by Bill Strickland. Photograph by Joel Mora.

Manchester Bidwell Corporation would not exist if Bill Strickland had not wandered past Frank Ross’ ceramics classroom at Oliver High School. We celebrate that meeting and mentorship with the exhibit “Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship” in the Connie Kerr Gallery.

The exhibit highlights the extraordinary relationship between Strickland and Ross. Ross’ mentorship not only fostered Strickland’s creativity—motivating him to graduate high school and attend the University of Pittsburgh—it ultimately led to the development of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its affiliates. While showcasing ceramic works from both men, the exhibit will also highlight historical elements telling the story of the last 50 years.

Frank Ross doing a ceramics demonstration.

“I’m honored to be able to reconstruct the history of the journey,” said Strickland, who has persevered in his studio practice, despite the inherent difficulties associated with creating ceramic work after surviving a double lung transplant.

Strickland’s recent work is a continuation of his passion for functional stoneware pottery instilled in him and countless others by Ross, who taught in the PittsburghPublic schools system, and later as a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to the exhibit, Strickland will take part in a two-day workshop with MCG Youth & Arts students in the ceramic studio and have lunch with them in the MBC board room.

Outside of the exhibit, guests will find a timeline of MBC highlighting how the organization has changed lives across the world for the past half century.

Ross never lived to see the incredible ceramics studio that Strickland eventually built on Metropolitan Street. A car accident took Mr. and Mrs. Ross in 1980. In 2008, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s world-class, ceramic studio was officially dedicated in memory of Ross and his wife. It can only be assumed that Ross would be just as excited as Strickland is regarding the planned renovation and expansion of the ceramics facility that will allow the past 50 years of mentorship to extend into the far future.

“Frank & Bill: 50 Years of Mentorship” will run until December 31, 2018.

Bill Strickland teaching a student at a potter’s wheel in the ceramics studio.