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  1. Mr. Strickland Statement on Passing of Israeli Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres

    The following is an official statement from Mr. Bill Strickland on the passing of Israeli former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

    “Mr. Peres was very supportive of the development of the Northern Israel Center for Arts and Technology in Akko not only because of our desire to bring adult training programs to people of the region and to foster an environment of self-empowerment for youth, but also because of our mission to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. He saw in our education model a real pathway to help bridge the divide among Jews and Arabs through art, environment, career training, and collaboration. He was unfailing in his belief that hope was for all and in his desire for peace in the country he loved. He will sorely be missed, but his legacy will live on for generations.”

  2. Trip of a Lifetime

    Students visit Yellowstone National Park

    By Melissa Klaric / The Herald


    You had to be there, they said.

    Three Farrell High students struggled to find the words to describe their four-day trip last month to Yellowstone National Park.

    “Beauty,” the kind only an artist can portray.

    “Amazing,” the majestic kind that’s part of a landscape unlike any in western Pennsylvania.

    “Wild,” as in wildlife like bison, bear and wolf.

    “At any moment of any part of the day, where ever we looked, the scenery was just beautiful,” said Christian Walker, a 2016 Farrell graduate. “It was like what you would see in movies. It was just amazing. As soon as we would leave our cabins, it was just mountains and stuff.”

    Walker, along with Isaiah Crosby and Michael McQueen, who will be seniors this fall, were chosen by Farrell teachers and administration to visit the nation’s first national park, the home of Old Faithful.

    The trip was made possible through a partnership of the Hope Center for Arts and Technology in Sharon and Park Journeys Inc., a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with the purpose of sending local students to Yellowstone who otherwise would not have had the chance to go.

    But that doesn’t mean the trip was a gift, said Tom Roberts, executive director of HopeCAT.

    “They did consistent work throughout the program,” he said. “So they earned it.” They “earned” it by attending HopeCAT’s first-ever class – ceramics – three times a week after school this past year at Penn State Shenango in Sharon.

    The young men beamed as they joked and reminisced about the trip with their chaperones, Roberts ad Christian Kuharik, their ceramics instructors.

    “We had the opportunity … to travel to Yellowstone, live as a family in cabins, prepare our own meals every day, and enjoy Yellowstone learning about the wildlife, ecosystem and nature,” Roberts said. The HopeCAT group stayed in Gardiner, Mont., with a group of students from Cleveland.

    And enjoy it they did.

    The favorite part of the trip for McQueen – who hopes his new nickname “Montana Mike” will stick – was when he got up close and personal with a bison.

    “I didn’t think animals would be as much fun as they were, and then I saw the bison,” McQueen said. “It started running at me, then they started pulling me away and I was like, ‘No I love it, and it loves me.’ “

    The running joke throughout the trip was that “Montana Mike” wanted to hug a bear and ride a bison.

    And while the travelers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the trio were like sponges as they soaked up new lessons from the outdoor classroom that is Yellowstone.

    “When we went there, she (the park ranger) told us one rule: Do not pick flowers or plants because you have to preserve the wildlife and flowers,” Crosby said. “There were many types of flowers. All different colors – blue, purple, yellow, even some green.”

    Crosby marveled over watching a pack of wolves emerge from their den on the side of a ridge and said he was fascinated by fish in their natural habitat. “We saw a lot of fish. We actually saw how they protect each other. How they fight for their babies and all.”

    Yellowstone National Park covers almost 3,500 square miles in three states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

    “I remember our tour guide said for them to persuade the government to make Yellowstone a national park, they got an artist to draw out what Yellowstone looked like, and it was amazing,” Walker said. “They couldn’t believe how amazing it was. You have to be there to actually embrace it.”

    “I’m blessed to even be here,” Walker said he told the tour guide. “I never thought pursuing pottery for fun would have me end up at Yellowstone and would have me meet all the people that I’ve met.”

    About the Hope Center

    The Hope Center landed a $2.6 million state grant last October and is working with the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio to raise funds to match it so it can renovate the former Sacred Heart building at 115 Anson Way, Sharon.

    The center is slowly taking shape. When the first floor is finished – and Executive Director Tom Roberts said it should be done in the fall – classes for adults and youth will be held there. For now, the center has partnered with Penn State Shenango, which donated the use of its ceramics lab and materials for classes.


    See the original post and photos here.

  3. Michael Feinstein to perform at MGC Jazz’s 30th Anniversary Series

    By Matt Micucci /
    Vocalist and pianist Michael Feinstein will be replacing Bobby McFerrin as headliner of the MCG Jazz’s 30th Anniversary Concert Series in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Feinstein and his trio will be performing four shows, two each night, on September 23rd and 24th.

    “I am thrilled to be with you to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of MCG Jazz.  I look forward to a special weekend in Pittsburgh,” said Feinstein.

    As previously announced, McFerrin was forced to postpone his tour due to health issues. A statement from McFerrin’s management reads: “Bobby McFerrin is taking a much-needed sabbatical for the remainder of 2016, undergoing a course of treatment for Lyme disease and resting his voice. He was truly looking forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of MCG Jazz and sends his congratulations to all involved in bringing so much music and joy to the Pittsburgh community.”


    The Series will run through April 21, 2017. For more information, go to

    See the original story here.

  4. Big Idea Session inspires change one presentation at a time

    By Amanda Waltz / Next Pittsburgh

    This Friday, around a dozen thought leaders—from the Chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh to an entrepreneur from London, England—will share their big idea from a global stage at the Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC). The Big Idea Session, sponsored by the MBC affiliate National Center for Arts & Technology (NCAT), is free and open to the public.

    NCAT has worked to elevate communities in need by setting up centers to provide high-quality arts education and demand-driven career training. The organization also focuses on fostering a culture where people can come together and find innovative, creative solutions to societal problems, a mission it will continue with the first-ever Big Idea Session.

    On the morning of May 20, more than a dozen arts, education and technology leaders from Pittsburgh and around the globe will meet at the MBC to share their socially-conscious ideas during a series of focused, fast-paced presentations. The featured speakers have successfully employed strategies that deal with issues such as poverty, unemployment and low academic achievement.

    “Overall, we were looking for people who would bring different perspectives and new ideas to an informed conversation about what we could do differently,” says NCAT Chief Operations Officer Paulo Nzambi. “Sometimes in our work there’s a level of cross-pollination that occurs where you take ideas from arts and infuse them in technology, where you take ideas from the realm of technology and infuse them into education, where you take principles of education and you infuse them into the arts and technology. And this cross-pollination produces an outcome greater than the sum of the individual parts. That’s what we’re hoping to create with this field of presenters.”

    Each presentation will take no longer than 15 minutes and end with a line summarizing its content. The format forces presenters to get to the essence of their ideas and keep audience interest.

    The event will welcome representatives from foundations, corporations and nonprofits, as well as the general public, free of charge.  Allowing everyone to come “adds to the culture of innovation and reinvention for which Pittsburgh has become known,” says Nzambi.

    “We wanted an environment where these ideas would be democratized. They should be shared with as many people as possible who have any interest in learning and being inspired because we never know what seed of an idea might get implanted in someone that will produce the next big thing.”


    See the original story and photos here.

  5. ‘Genius’ Bill Strickland is more than just a kid from the neighborhood

    Bill Strickland describes himself as “a kid from the neighborhood who got involved in the arts.”

    While that is certainly true, he might also be selling himself a bit short — Strickland, who is the President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, a book about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to a board seat at the National Endowment for the Arts and a speaking gig at Harvard, among other things.

    It all started in the 1960s in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where Strickland grew up as a disengaged youth. Then he met high school art teacher Frank Ross. Ross showed Strickland the power of art, education and community, and instilled in him an interest in working with the kids through an after-school arts program.

    In 1968, Strickland launched his own small after-school ceramics program. That initiative is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program — it serves public school students via classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3-D manufacturing and photography.

    By 1972, Strickland had also taken over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He rebuilt the organization into a “pretty good” job training and vocational center in partnership with various Pittsburgh area industry leaders.

    Once again, Strickland is being humble: This “pretty good” vocational center is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution, with programs that range from horticulture to medicine to the culinary arts.

    “We partner with industry leaders to develop curriculum specific to their industries,” explains Strickland. “We have these industry advisory boards that work directly with us. The programs we develop are industry compatible, so as to have a high degree of placement and retention.”

    Manchester Bidwell’s arts education opportunities for public school students are directly connected to this work.

    “Our goal is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” says Strickland. “As kids get better in the arts, their retention improves. We graduated 99 percent of our kids last year. We average 90 percent, and a lot of these students go on to college. I think this is a very powerful way of adding value to what these kids need to have to be successful.”

    Once out of school, arts program alumni can continue on with Manchester Bidwell via vocational training (for ages 18 and up). By talking to industry leaders to determine their workforce and skills training needs, they have been able to make these programs incredibly effective.

    According to Strickland, between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained. These numbers are consistent across Manchester Bidwell’s eight affiliate sites.

    Those affiliates operate in cities across the United States and follow the same model as the one in Pittsburgh. Five more sites are in the works and should be online in the next 18 months. Strickland’s goal is to eventually have 100 centers throughout the country.

    While Strickland has reason to be proud of the programs he has built, he remains steadfastly humble. To him, the impactful work of Manchester Bidwell is a relatively simple matter.

    “I decided I wanted to get involved with the arts in the community and that’s how this started,” he says. “This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

    See the original story here.

  6. MCG Invitational First Place Winner

    By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


    Marce Nixon, MCG Photography student, poses with her family after winning multiple awards, including a full scholarship to West Virginia University. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Invitational, May 5, 2016.

    See original story and photos here.

  7. Bidwell Training Center 2016 Graduation ­Ceremony

    By New Pittsburgh Courier

    Bidwell Training Center, a [an affiliate of Manchester Bidwell Corporation] located at 1815 Metropolitan Avenue in Manchester, recently held their 2016 Graduation ceremony at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Avenue Oakland.


    Read more and see photos here.

  8. Inaugural Big Idea Session Set to Inspire

    On the morning of May 20, 2016, the National Center for Arts & Technology will present the inaugural Big Idea Session. Delivered from the world-class stage at Manchester Bidwell Corporation and recorded for a global audience, leaders from throughout the country will share their own big ideas to improve society’s quality of life through a fast-paced, exciting, and focused presentation. From the arts, to education, to innovative technologies, approximately 15 different influential thought leaders will present new ideas and inspire others into meaningful action.

    “The Big Idea Session will be an extraordinary opportunity to hear directly from some of the most intriguing, inspirational and innovative minds of our time. It is sure to be a memorable event,” notes Paulo Nzambi, COO of the National Center for Arts & Technology.

    The audience of the Big Idea Session will include diverse individuals from around the world, including leaders of foundations, corporations, nonprofits and Centers for Arts & Technology, MBC staff and students, as well as the general public. While admission to the event will be free, RSVPs will be required for seating purposes. A morning reception and intermission will also allow attendees to share ideas and have impactful conversations, with the common goal of community enrichment.

    You can register for the Big Idea Session at

  9. My Art Story by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

    In collaboration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts looks at the arts and culture of Pennsylvania, with a special look at the many affiliates of Manchester Bidwell Corporation.


    See the video here!

  10. SFJAZZ Collective pays tribute to ‘King of Pop’

    You might not expect a jazz group to cover Michael Jackson, but in jazz the rules don’t always apply.

    In light of that, the SFJAZZ Collective is on tour featuring the music of the late “King of Pop” and stopping Friday at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Hall.

    SFJAZZ Collective

    Where: Jazz Concert Hall, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, North Side.

    When: 7 (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. Friday.

    Tickets: $52.50; 412-322-0800 or

    Bassist Matt Penman says Jackson’s music “is part of the same musical tree [of the jazz greats]— a continuum of African-American music. His sense of rhythm was incredible, the melody and groove are eternal. There is some funk present, which I’m happy about.”

    The repertoire includes “Smooth Criminal,” “Human Nature” and “Blame it on the Boogie,” among other tunes, because “a lot of people [involved in the arranging] went to the old stuff.”

    The San Francisco-based organization, co-founded in 2004 by Randall Kline and Joshua Redman, “started out as a composers’ collective, where everyone brings in original material,” according to bassist Matt Penman.

    Over the years, the collective — not really a band per se because of the consistent turnover — has performed music by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, among others. “Next year, Miles Davis,” Mr. Penman says. “[The personnel] keeps turning over, and the band has a big book of music.”

    Every fall the collective sponsors a residency and extended rehearsal period, from which the music emanates. Five years ago it moved into the SFJAZZ Center, “the only standalone building for jazz in the U.S.,” Mr. Penman notes.

    This year’s ensemble includes trumpeter Sean Jones, the Warren, Ohio, native and alumnus of and former professor at Duquesne University, whom Mr. Penman describes as “fabulous — someone who can lead [a section] and a great improviser as well.”

    Also appearing with this tour are alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon and drummer Obed Calvaire.

    Because the collective always showcases original music from the participants, “We’ll be playing our recent music at the same time,” Mr. Penman says.

    See the original story here.