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  1. After 50 Years, Founder Bill Strickland Named Executive Chairman, Kevin Jenkins Named President and CEO

    Marking half a century of success, Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s (MBC) Board of Directors has named Bill Strickland Executive Chairman, elevating him to an expanded public-facing role focused on spreading the message and the model that has made MBC an internationally renowned career training and arts institution. He will focus on public speaking and stakeholder relations, fundraising, and extending the MBC model in other regions with additional partners. Strickland is himself something of an institution in the Pittsburgh region and beyond, having pioneered the concept of partnering with industry to establish career training curriculum and providing empowering educational environments for adults in transition and youth arts students—all in a North Side setting that motivates and inspires.

    With this transition, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Jenkins becomes President and CEO, poised to continue his partnership with Strickland as the organization advances, grows, and establishes its unique model in other cities. So far, MBC has launched 11 other centers around the world: Boston; Brockway, Pa.; Buffalo; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Grand Rapids, Mich.; New Haven, Conn.; San Francisco; Sharon, Pa.; and Akko, Israel with more centers signed on to open in other cities.

    “We’re celebrating 50 years of the outstanding work of an African-American-led organization in Pittsburgh that began during the riots and strife affecting Pittsburgh in 1968,” said Greg Jordan, chairman of the MBC Board. “This leadership transition is timely as we acknowledge the significance of Bill’s and MBC’s achievements and sharpen our focus on the future.”

    MBC houses a series of affiliate programs—MCG Youth & Arts, Bidwell Training Center (BTC), MCG Jazz, The Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC), and the National Centers for Art and Technology—that all operate under the same guiding principles: environment shapes behavior, people are assets not liabilities, and creativity fuels enterprise.

    Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) was established in 1968 as a way for Strickland—19 years old at the time—to serve his community following the chaos and violence that emerged from Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Originally located in an abandoned, drug halfway house on Buena Vista Street with a simple potter’s wheel and small photo studio, today—now known as MCG Youth & Arts—it offers ceramics, design, digital, and photography classes at no cost to Pittsburgh Public High School students. Ninety-eight percent of students who participate in MCG Youth & Arts graduate high school on time, compared to 80 percent of their PPS peers.

    BTC emerged from the same strife in 1968 on Bidwell Street to provide vocational training and employment opportunities. Originally the primary focus of training was in construction trades including carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing, and electrical wiring. In 1972, Strickland was hired to lead BTC and established the innovative approach of partnering with industry to provide career training for fields that are in demand, which today include medical assistant, laboratory technician, pharmacy technician, culinary arts, and horticulture technology among others. This is also at no cost to qualifying students. BTC has been recognized as an ACCSC School of Excellence two consecutive times in 2012 and 2017.

    Strickland’s idea was to create a unique learning environment that would serve the needs of the community and provide educational opportunities to anyone who aspired to achieve their dreams by becoming productive citizens. For half a century, tens of thousands of people have participated and benefitted from MBC’s affiliate programs.

    “We believe that our history of programs that started under impossible economic and social circumstances and were transformed into world-class arts and education organizations continues to serve as a powerful source of hope locally and internationally,” said Strickland. “It’s a challenge to describe how much it means to all of us at MBC to be part of half a century of making people whole by helping them find the skills and paths to become productive members of society.”

    Strickland expressed his enthusiasm for the MBC team that will manage the continued evolution of the organization.

    “We have built such a strong team here, and Kevin has the skills and vision to keep our momentum going as we expand our proven programs into other cities and regions,” Strickland said. “I’m looking forward to connecting with many more people to share our model, continue raising funds to drive it, and reach many more people who will benefit from MBC programs.”

    In his new role, Jenkins is focused on championing Strickland’s vision that he set out in 1968, undertaking the early leadership phase of a comprehensive campaign, and—as Strickland had done before him—adapting MBC’s tools, resources, and methods to continue to best serve those who are searching for ways to change their lives.

    “I am honored to follow in Bill’s footsteps and continue the mission of building empowering educational environments,” said Jenkins. “I’m excited about the innovative programs that we’re developing at MBC for a new generation.”

  2. Bill Strickland Honored at NCECA

    Bill Strickland speaking after receiving the NCECA Honorary Member of the Council
    award. Photo by Germaine Watkins.

    When the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual convention returned to Pittsburgh, they gave MBC President and CEO Bill Strickland their Honorary Member of the Council Award.

    Strickland received the award for his contributions to ceramic arts and his work is now recognized as essential to ceramic arts’ impact.

    This award comes as Manchester Bidwell Corporation celebrates its 50th anniversary, which all started with Strickland in 1968 with a lump of clay serving his community. Josh Green, NCECA executive director, presented Strickland with the award at the conference.

    “With this award we too connect Bill’s work with pottery of the ancients,” said Green during the award presentation.

    For Strickland, the award provided an opportunity to reinforce the idea that art is more than something to look at.

    “I know there is magic in clay,” said Strickland during the awards ceremony. “We can use this medium called clay to literally change the world.”

  3. The 50th Brings the Funk at MCG Youth & Arts

    Middle Passage Vessel by David MacDonald in the “Funk: American Dada” exhibit at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

    MCG Youth & Arts celebrated both the return of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual convention and its 50th anniversary with a powerful ceramics exhibit and a three-day, hands-on workshop for students.

    “Funk: American Dada” featured strong political and personal work from 10 of the top contemporary, African American ceramic artists. The exhibit was a homecoming for several of the artists who were either former students, teaching artists, or visiting artists.

    Curated by Anthony Merino, the show’s title references musicians such as George Clinton, who crossed currents to obliterate genres and subvert the norm. The artists featured in “Funk: American Dada” do the same using clay; not notes. The exhibit—sanctioned by NCECA— featured Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Kelly Phelps, Kyle Phelps, Lydia Thompson, David MacDonald, Yinka Orafidiya, Janathel Shaw, James Watkins, Sharif Bey, and Angelica Pozo.

    While all ceramic work, the pieces in the exhibit varied in style, scale, and intent from the Phelps brothers’ tableaus documenting the lives of middle-class factory works to Orafidiya’s Freedom Cups. Some artists showcased older works like MacDonald’s arresting Middle Passage vessels, and others created new works specifically for this exhibit like Pozo’s expressive tile paintings.

    The reception was attended by many of the artists as well as hundreds of convention attendees. NCECA offered shuttle service to the 6,500 registered attendees from the convention center to MCG.

    In the days leading up to NCECA, Bey co-presented the three-day workshop for students with MacDonald. Bey came of age at MCG; discovering clay as a teen and eventually returning to teach ceramics in the very same studio.

    The two masters worked alongside the students on a collaborative project allowing everyone to get their hands dirty and to express themselves personally.

    “Can you tell how much fun David and I had working with kids at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild,” asked Bey. “I used to think that MCG was a magical place. Now I understand that MCG brings out the magic we all have inside of us.”

    Ceramic artist Sharif Bey teaching a workshop with MCG Youth & Arts students. Photo by Jeff Guerrero.

  4. MCG Jazz 32nd Annual Jazz Concert Season

    MCG Jazz 32 A Season For You

    MCG Jazz is pleased to announce our 32nd Annual Jazz Concert Series. The new season has been designed all for you. We have learned, through conversations, surveys and emails from you, the many artists whom you would like to see here on the MCG Jazz stage. The result is Season 32 For You.

    MCG Jazz will host almost 100 musicians for the 2018-2019 series, for you to enjoy. There are 21 headliners performing 13 concerts. More than half of these artists have never performed at MCG Jazz; for many this marks their Pittsburgh debut. The diversity of styles from straight-ahead jazz and fusion to rhythm and blues provides an opportunity for a unique experience at every show.

    Masterful vocalist Bobby McFerrin opens the season September 23, 2018 leading the way for veteran singers Kurt Elling and René Marie, as well as emerging 24-year-old vocal sensation Veronica Swift. We will celebrate the 100th birthday of the legendary Joe Williams with a world premiere program featuring award-winning actor/singer Keith David accompanied by a jazz orchestra to bring to life Williams’ personal stories and his days with the Count Basie Orchestra.

    We heat up winter and spring with Latin jazz. In February 2019, a pianist, percussionist, harpist, and harmonica player will present an eclectic evening of Latin jazz duos, and in April we have a triple-bill, Latin Jazz Festival for you featuring music from Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba with some of the top musicians performing in the world today. Contemporary jazz favorites including Take 6, Jeff Lorber, and Gerald Albright will be joined this season by artists who are sure to become new favorites, including Kirk Whalum, Booker T. Jones, Fred Hersch, and NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis.

    Choose-your-own concert subscription packages of four or more concerts are available now. Please visit or call the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Box Office at 412-322-0800 for more information. Tickets can also be purchased with the MCG Jazz free mobile app available through Google Play and the Apple store.

  5. Hope Thrives in New Center in Sharon, PA

    HopeCAT students in front of the mural they painted on the side of the Reyers Store in Sharon, PA. Photo courtesy of Tom Roberts.

    The Hope Center for Arts and Technology (HopeCAT), a replication of the internationally regarded Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) education model, held its ribbon cutting ceremony in Sharon, PA on December 7, 2017.

    After breaking ground in March 2016, approximately 30,000 of the 45,000 square feet of what was once a dilapidated and abandoned elementary school was renovated into beautiful classrooms, galleries, and workspaces to serve the community throughout the region, with future renovation phases planned.

    “Thanks to creative collaborations with Penn State Shenango and regional organizations, we’ve been able to operate without a facility for the last two years,” said Tom Roberts, HopeCAT’s executive director. “This amazing facility captures the spirit of the other centers for arts and technology throughout the world and will allow ripples of hope to reach even farther than we can imagine.”

    The goal of the center—like the MBC model—is to place its adult career training students in life-changing careers and public high school youth arts program graduates in postsecondary education. HopeCAT is currently designing courses in partnership with the regional medical industry to help adults obtain long-term employment and will offer ceramics and digital arts to youth.

    “HopeCAT will be joining an affiliated network of centers reaching from Cleveland, OH to Buffalo, NY, from Brockway, PA to our original site in Pittsburgh as well as sites in New England, Michigan, California, and Akko, Israel,” said Bill Strickland, MBC President and CEO. “This center is an important piece in the expansion of access to the Manchester Bidwell education model for this area.”

  6. DMC Greenhouse: Where Hope is Always in Season

    “Where flowers bloom, so does hope” is a well-known quote from former first lady Lady Bird Johnson. As MBC celebrates its 50th anniversary, The Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC Greenhouse) celebrates 15 years of growing hope.

    From the establishment of the DMC Greenhouse in 2003, phalaenopsis orchids have flourished in the production greenhouses along with the students who have learned and been inspired within the 40,000-square-foot greenhouse facility.

    The DMC Greenhouse production schedule and associated educational programming have evolved over the years to reflect the needs of the market and the horticulture and agriculture industry.

    The DMC Greenhouse is embracing an operational plan with the goal of developing into a world class comprehensive educational and community resource and the continuing goal of being a successful and sustainable social enterprise.

    The operational plan includes the ongoing development and expansion of youth programming focused on enriching the student STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) experience, enhancing and expanding existing adult career training, and partnering with like minded organizations to develop beneficial industry related relationships.

    According to a recent report, Pennsylvania Agriculture – A Look at the Economic Impact and Future Trends, “The agricultural industry generates approximately $135.7 billion in total economic impact each year and supports 579,000 jobs with $26.9 billion in earnings.” Hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical farming, and aeroponic systems have been outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as having numerous applications related to community development and sustainability, commercial production, and educational initiatives for various populations.

    An integral element of future DMC Greenhouse operations include some of these sustainable operational systems, including a rain water harvesting system, transitioning to LED grow lights, solar panel installation, update of automated greenhouse environmental control system, expanding organic practices, and more. The addition of various innovative production technologies, including expanded hydroponic systems (vertical farming), aquaponics, and aeroponics as functioning production systems will ensure that the DMC Greenhouse remains on the cutting edge of the horticultural and agricultural industries. The potential transferable nature of these innovative greenhouse systems and production technologies will result in unique creative industry partnerships, increased environmental safety, and increased access for community members and community organizations to ensure a bright future for the DMC Greenhouse, as we continue to grow, teach, and inspire.

  7. American Culinary Federation Offers Invaluable Opportunities for BTC Students

    Certified master chef and MBC board member Byron J. Bardy, BTC culinary director Cynthia Tuite, BTC Executive Director/ Senior Vice President Valerie Njie, catering chef Brian Buskey, culinary department administrative assistant Gina Hergenroeder, and culinary arts instructor Richard Panzera with the Outstanding Supporter of the Year Award at the ACF Pittsburgh Chapter 2018 Awards Gala. Photo courtesy of Valerie Njie.

    Certified master chef and MBC board member Byron J. Bardy, BTC culinary director Cynthia Tuite, BTC Executive Director/Senior Vice President Valerie Njie, catering chef Brian Buskey, culinary department administrative assistant Gina Hergenroeder, and culinary arts instructor Richard Panzera with the Outstanding Supporter of the Year Award at the ACF Pittsburgh Chapter 2018 Awards Gala. Photo courtesy of Valerie Njie.

    Partnerships with professional organizations provide Bidwell Training Center (BTC) students learning and network opportunities outside of the classroom, and there was no better example than at the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Pittsburgh Chapter 2018 Awards Gala.

    The ACF promised a night filled with warm hospitality, fine dining, and tributes to those who promote the culinary profession. To say the least; they delivered.

    Held on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at the St. Clair Country Club, BTC students stated that the things they most remembered about the gala were the accepting and welcoming atmosphere, the presentation of the exquisite six-course meal, the staff, and the club. It was a night where you could sit across the table from chefs who are pioneers in the culinary industry, instructors, executive directors, and students.

    It is not uncommon for BTC staff and students and ACF members to be at the same event. The partnership between BTC and the ACF has provided an invaluable opportunity for students that is rarely experienced this early in the game. Throughout the years, BTC students have had the opportunity to attend monthly ACF meetings and Anything Goes Competitions—where they compete with other students around the Pittsburgh area. Their superior skills have resulted in first, second, or third place standings and awards. Monthly meetings offer a variety of demonstrations and educational lectures. Students are free to attend the meetings and competitions without being a member of the ACF and membership is offered at a discount.

    Student involvement in ACF helps them gain a new perspective and enhances their ability to create new and exciting concepts. Richard Grabowski, a recent BTC graduate, was honored at the gala and received the William Foust Educational Scholarship Award. Grabowski won a $1,200 prize that paid for him to attend the Chef Connect Conference in Charlotte, NC and a student culinarian membership to the ACF Pittsburgh Chapter for one year. Valerie Njie, BTC executive director/senior vice president, was present to accept the ACF Outstanding Supporter of the Year Award on behalf of BTC.

    Whether attending an awards gala, an Anything Goes Competition, or monthly meeting, students can walk out learning more than they walked in with. It is clear to see that the future of the culinary industry is in the students’ hands. The generosity and expertise that the chefs at BTC and the ACF give to the students will help guide the future of culinary cuisine and hospitality.

  8. Half a Century of History at the Home & Garden Show

    “From the Ground Up” installation at the 2018 Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show. Photo by Valerie Njie.

    “From the Ground Up” was the underlying theme of Bidwell Training Center’s (BTC) exhibit at the 2018 Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show. In grand style, the event served to kick off BTC’s anniversary year celebrating 50 years of helping people find direction and opportunity by way of its innovative adult training programs.

    The exhibit unfolded in the garden pavilion on the first floor of the David Lawrence Convention Center where displays created by the horticulture technology students included vignettes suggestive of the many programs that BTC has offered over the past 50 years. Each was constructed from repurposed items, to create fun and even somewhat whimsical plant containers bursting with the colors of spring. The exhibit also included salutes to our sister affiliate Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, which is also celebrating 50 years of enriching the lives of area youth through creative arts programming

    In addition, BTC’s horticulture department took their collective skills to a new height as they expanded their theme in a second floor display, which included the Pennsylvania Woodmobile. The traveling exhibit managed by the State Department of Agriculture offered guests a fun and interesting romp through Pennsylvania forests and highlighted the economic importance of trees to the Commonwealth. The walkthrough display contained both educational and interactive components for tree lovers of all sizes. As if that wasn’t enough, the Woodmobile was set amidst islands of fun facts about economically important plants, also created by BTC’s horticulture students.

    This event was not an add-on for the students, but rather a unique way of bringing all of their studies and classwork together within the context of one amazing applied learning module.

    Other features included an amazing floral display created by Sogetsu Ikebana, rose experts from the Pittsburgh Rose Society and our ever-popular garden shop with an array of seeds, plants, and garden-related products.

    In addition to over 400,000 people enjoying the show first hand, BTC’s horticulture department received accolades from both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune Review and got great media coverage on KDKA’s “Pittsburgh Today Live.”

    Watch for more exciting events as we continue with our year-long anniversary celebration including ways in which you can participate in this unprecedented time in our history.

  9. Thank You to Our Individual Donors

    Donations from individuals

    Donations from individuals

    Over the last three years, MBC has seen a 145 percent increase in the amount donated by individuals like you.

    Since 2014, 28 percent more individual donations were made in support of the work we do at MBC.

    These generous contributions provide the crucial day-to-day operating support we need to keep our programs running, our facility maintained, and our dedicated staff in place. We’re proud to have welcomed more members to our MBC family and hope you will continue to support our work, as well as introduce us to people who share your commitment to providing pathways out of poverty. If you’d like to introduce someone to MBC, please bring them by for a tour or to one of our many events. You—and our successful students—are our best ambassadors. To schedule a tour call 412-323- 4000 ext. 261.

  10. Meet MBC Board Chair Greg Jordan

    Gregory B. Jordan, MBC Board Chair

    Gregory B. Jordan, MBC Board Chair

    MBC started the new year with a new board of directors chair, Gregory B. Jordan. Jordan, who has served on the board for four years, is general counsel and chief administrative officer of The PNC Financial Services Group.

    “It’s an honor to be the board chair of a wonderful organization like Manchester Bidwell—especially in its 50th year,” Jordan said. “We have launched a year-long celebration of Bill Strickland’s vision to help give people job skills and hope. Thousands of people have had their lives changed for the better through the work of Bill and his outstanding team, and we intend to keep that going long into the future.”

    In his role at PNC, Jordan is responsible for overseeing all legal functions for the corporation and leads PNC’s relationship with the government. Additionally, he oversees PNC’s Corporate Ethics Office, The PNC Foundation, Community Affairs, the Office of the Regional Presidents, and Corporate Communications.

    “I am very proud to have Greg as our chair,” said MBC President and CEO Bill Strickland. “His leadership, energy, and genuine commitment to our mission are a tremendous asset to MBC.”

    Jordan succeeds Scott M. Lammie, senior vice president of UPMC Insurance Services and chief financial officer of UMPC Health Plan. Lammie served nine years on MBC’s board and remains committed to the organization as an emeritus member and chair of the NCAT Advisory Board.

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