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  1. ‘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.

  2. 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!

  3. Bill Strickland to speak at “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” a presentation by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

    The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a program of four panelists that will present “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” on Sunday, April 3 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave. The panelists will present constructive approaches to help all members of Israeli society progress together. The presentation is free and open to the community.

    Panelists will include American and Israeli leaders with collective experience in education, government and the nonprofit sector: Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, Dalia Fadila, Michal Steinman and Pittsburgh native Bill Strickland.

    Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu is co-executive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an Israel-based nonprofit that promotes coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab Palestinian citizens.

    Dalia Fadila, Ph.D., was the first female dean of an Islamic college in Israel. She is the current president of Al-Qasemi Engineering and Science College and past provost of Al-Qasemi Teacher Training College. Both colleges are near Haifa, Israel. Fadila is the founder of Q Schools, private schools for teaching English and personal empowerment. Q Schools offer special outreach to women as future educators, entrepreneurs and leaders. She is a fellow at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and participates in other national and international forums dealing with education and Israel’s Arab minority.

    Michal Steinman is the executive director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues (IATF) in New York. The task force is a coalition of American Jewish organizations dedicated to learning about and raising awareness of Israel’s Arab citizens.

    Steinman joined the IATF after directing the Bedouin Sheep Growers Project, which involved working with senior government officials to create incentives for Bedouin farmers to organize.

    William “Bill” Strickland, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. While attending college, in 1968, Strickland founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) to bring arts education and mentorship to inner-city youth in his neighborhood, Pittsburgh’s North Side. He later established Bidwell Training Center, which offers nationally accredited programs ranging from horticulture to medical technology; MCG Jazz, a venue for music performance and teaching; and the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology. Strickland applied a vision of mentorship, education, and beauty to create educational environments similar to MCG outside Pittsburgh, through the National Center for Arts & Technology. Currently, center-affiliated programs operate in eight cities. In 2010, he was appointed to President Barack Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions.

    Attendees are encouraged to continue the discussion during a dessert reception following the program. Dietary laws will be observed. Registration is requested; visit the online registration form at Contact Eric Probola at 412-992-5247 or for more information or to submit questions to panelists in advance.

    Read more: The Jewish Chronicle – Metro Briefs March 17

  4. Bill Strickland: The Hope Maker

    A social-enterprise entrepreneur from Pittsburgh, with a remarkable record of success and a resume full of honors, is about to test his brand of optimism in the Middle East. Can William Strickland Jr. and his partners create hope and opportunity for Arabs and Jews?

    See the article from Pitt Magazine by Pamela Goldsmith, with photos by Scott Goldsmith, here:

    The Hope Maker.

  5. Pittsburgh Profiles: Bill Strickland – The Solution Man

    from Popular

    “You’ve got to look like the solution, not the problem,” said Bill Strickland at a 2002 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference in Monterey, California. For nearly 50 years, Pittsburgh native Bill Strickland has been applying his simple solution to help at-risk kids, single parents, and displaced workers visualize and achieve their dreams. According to Strickland: You solve problems by creating a world-class environment because people then have a tendency to show world-class behavior.

    Pop Pgh NOVEMBER 2015 Bill Strickland Image






    Strickland’s life is an illustration of that philosophy. He was born in 1947 in Pittsburgh, in the Manchester neighborhood of the North Side, and attended Oliver High School. A chance encounter there would change his life and trigger a ripple of good will that would radiate and change countless lives. Strickland described that meeting:

    I was a young kid just about flunking out of school, and one afternoon I happened to walk past the ceramics studio. I glanced inside, and here was this man throwing pots. Frank Ross. Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a ceramics wheel turning, but if you have, you know it’s magic. It was like a big invisible hand lifted me up and carried me over to that wheel. Mr. Ross looked up and said, “Can I help you, son?”

    Frank Ross more than helped Strickland; he became his mentor and guided the young man to apply to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was accepted on a probationary basis. Years later, Strickland would rise to become one of the university’s trustees.

    Strickland graduated cum laude in 1969 from Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in American History and Foreign Relations. But before he even graduated, he was already envisioning a way to channel what he’d learned from his mentoring under Mr. Ross to aid others. In 1968, he founded the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in a donated North Side row house and provided an after-school arts program for the disadvantaged children in the area.

    His program was so successful that Strickland was asked to take over the helm of the Bidwell Cultural and Training Center, which had been established in 1968 in response to protests in the 1960s for more jobs for minorities in the construction trades. Strickland took over in 1972, and in the early 1980s, the name was changed to the Bidwell Training Center. With the collapse of the steel industry and the rise in widespread unemployment, Strickland worked with businesses and the community to tailor the center’s training programs to reflect the local economy’s evolution to high-tech and medical-based careers.

    In the mid-1980s, Strickland contracted a former apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building to house the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. The building was constructed to be full of sunlight, art, hope, and lofty expectations. Strickland also saw to it that the building contained lots of flowers, which he himself purchased and planted in the building’s planters. In 1999, Bidwell Training Center expanded with the construction of the Harbor Gardens Park facility, which also houses commercial enterprises such as Citizens Bank and UPMC, helping to revitalize the struggling neighborhood.

    Eventually, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center were brought under the umbrella of a new entity, the Manchester Bidwell Corporation. And those flowers that Strickland made sure brightened the facilities? Strickland found a way to grow them in-house at the latest addition to the complex, the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticulture and Technology, which opened in 2002.

    Currently, the Bidwell Training Center offers majors in Chemical Laboratory Technician, Culinary Arts, Horticulture Technology, and Medical. In 2012, Bidwell Training Center received the prestigious ACCSC School of Excellence Award, only one of 17 schools out of 800 ACCSC to be so honored.

    The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild provides after-school programs for Pittsburgh Public School students in Ceramics, Design, Digital, and Photography. It also offers courses for Adults and a Summer Studio program for Middle and High School students. It has been Strickland’s mission to bring in renowned artists because he believes that, “Children will become like the people who teach them.”

    Strickland also holds events to showcase the students’ works. Initially, parents did not show up, but Strickland enlisted the help of a very persuasive neighborhood self-styled preacher to pick up parents and bring them to the show. At that time, 20 parents would show up; now they have upwards of 200, because there’s notoriety in having a child taking classes at MCG. “Mothers will go where their children are being celebrated,” said Strickland.

    The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild not only celebrates the visual arts but also music. MCG Jazz strives to preserve, present, and promote jazz. Since 1987, MCG Jazz has been hosting jazz artists at its 350-seat music hall. Names such as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, and Stanley Turrentine have performed there, and the MCG Jazz Archives contain more than 300 CDs of jazz history. In addition, the MCG has a recording studio and record label, and MCG Jazz has won five GRAMMY Awards. The MCG Jazz series is one of the longest and most respected in the nation. MCG Jazz has been presenting the School of Swing education event to elementary students.

    Strickland has compiled some impressive statistics. Bidwell Training Center provides approximately 180 adults per year with career training. The center’s graduation rate for all majors is 82 percent and its job placement rate is 77 percent.

    In 2013-14, 350 teens were enrolled in at least one of the 48 after-school arts courses at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. In 2014, the Drew Mathieson Center greenhouse grew more than 7,500 Phalaenopsis orchids, 2,500 poinsettias and poinsettia Topiaries; 2,000 hibiscus, and 3,800 hydrangeas, as well as numerous hanging baskets, ivy, vegetables, and herbs. The revenue generated by the greenhouse benefits the students at the Bidwell Training Center and Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

    For his work, Strickland has been showered with numerous accolades and awards including the MacArthur “Genius” Award for Leadership and Ingenuity in the Arts, as well as nearly 20 honorary doctorates.

    Perhaps the greatest honor of all is when others seek to replicate your example. To facilitate that, Strickland founded the National Center for Arts & Technology, which helps to impart the Manchester Bidwell model and create centers for arts and technology in cities across the United States and Canada. To date, eight centers have been founded across the country.

    Strickland has published the book Making the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger & Achieve the Extraordinary. The book details his philosophy of success: “Success is the point where your most authentic talents, passion, values, and experiences intersect with the chance to contribute to some greater good.”

    Strickland is thoughtful, kind, funny, and dynamic — qualities that attract and inspire people. Like a pied piper playing a jazz tune, Strickland’s solution is music to the ears of those who need a helping hand, and a shining example of how one man can make a difference in the world.


    See the original story here.

  6. Manchester Bidwell Corporation celebrates Rosa Parks’ historic contribution to the Civil Rights Movement with installation of portrait sculpture by renowned artist Marla Friedman

    PITTSBURGH, Dec. 1, 2015  / PRNewswire

    To commemorate the December 1st 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ momentous contribution to the Civil Rights Movement,  Manchester Bidwell Corporation has installed the life sized bronze portrait sculpture, Rosa Parks, “My Soul was Rested,” by acclaimed Chicago portraitist Marla Friedman. Steve Sarowitz, founder and chairman of Paylocity, and his wife Jessica have donated the bronze bust to Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC).

    Photo –

    “MBC’s vision of creating hope for the underserved grew out of the turmoil surrounding the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Without the courage of African American civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, this organization would never have been founded. The thousands of lives impacted by MBC would have remained unchanged and in hopeless situations. We are honored and humbled to have Marla Friedman’s soulful interpretation of “The First Lady of Civil Rights” and that it will be permanently installed as a reminder of how far we have come as a society and the miles we have to go before we rest,” says William E. “Bill” Strickland Jr., President and CEO of MBC.

    Marla Friedman shares her thoughts on creating the portrait sculpture of Rosa Parks. “I tried to ‘listen’ and then impart in clay the resolute and spiritual quality of Rosa Parks and her brave pivotal moment in history. In Rosa Parks’ words, when she made the decision not to give up her seat, her ‘Soul was rested.’ I hope the gesture of the sculpture reflects that sense of inner peace and the tranquility of a graceful, momentous life so well lived.”

    To view the sculpture, visit Manchester Bidwell Corporation, 1815 Metropolitan Street, Pittsburgh, PA  15233.

    About Manchester Bidwell Corporation and its divisions
    At Manchester Bidwell Corporation, we have a simple philosophy: environment shapes people’s lives. By constructing an atmosphere of art, light, music, and supportive staff, we help our students to become productive society members.

    • Bidwell Training Center —accredited and state-licensed adult career training programs.
    • Drew Mathieson Center — an urban educational and production greenhouse.
    • Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s Youth & Arts — youth development through hands-on art courses.
    • MCG Jazz — jazz music preservation, presentation, and promotion.
    • The National Center for Arts & Technology — replication of the Manchester Bidwell education model throughout the U.S. and the world.

    About Marla Friedman
    Marla Friedman has developed her art in painting and sculpture with a reverence for the principles founded in the Beaux Arts and the realist tradition. Ms. Friedman’s portraiture is represented exclusively by Hollis Taggart Galleries inNew York City.

    Hollis Taggart Galleries
    521 W 26th St.
    New York, NY  10001
    T 212-628-4000


    To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

    SOURCE Manchester Bidwell Corporation

  7. Essential Pittsburgh: Manchester Bidwell Corporation Impresses Powers Of Art, Education & Community

    By Essential Pittsburgh, 90.5 WESA / May 26, 2015

    The Manchester Bidwell Corporation was founded in 1968 by Bill Strickland with the intent of using the environment to shape people’s lives. We’ll discover his philosophy for the creation of the guild. We’ll also speak to Chief Operating Officer of the National Center for Arts and Technology Paulo Nzambi and Vice President of Operations Kevin Jenkins on their roles within the Bidwell company.

    Strickland lends some wise words behind the creation of The Manchester Bidwell Corporation:

    “You can do extraordinary things if you have the right people around you. Part of the message is…you don’t have to go to the world, you can bring the world to your neighborhood, and it’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you end up.” -Bill Strickland

    Click here to read more and hear the whole piece:

  8. Bidwell Training Center Graduates Celebrate Employment Success at 2015 Commencement Ceremony on April 11.

    Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed keynotes the event at 6:30 p.m. at Rodef Shalom.


    PITTSBURGH, PA – April 2, 2015 – On April 11, 2015, Bidwell Training Center (BTC)’s graduates celebrate becoming part of southwestern Pennsylvania’s economic growth at their commencement ceremony at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland at 6:30 p.m.


    “There are a lot of good-paying jobs and careers in Pennsylvania that aren’t being filled because many people are not trained for the available openings, yet Bidwell Training Center ensures its graduates are job-ready,” says keynote speaker House Majority Leader Dave Reed. “Everyone graduating today is ready to fill open positions and start the path to some great careers. If we could replicate what is done at BTC around the state, it would be a benefit for our residents and our economy.” Through the work being done by BTC’s parent company, Manchester Bidwell Corporation, Representative Reed’s idea of replicating these achievements throughout Pennsylvania is becoming a reality.


    Representative Reed is one of a diverse group of individuals who are grateful for Bidwell Training Center. Regional employers also praise the high quality of education. “Bidwell Training Center provides the highest caliber hands-on and classroom training around. They take beginners and mold and develop these students into professionals,” says Donato Coluccio C.E.C., managing partner of Donato’s Fox Chapel.


    Doug Oster, horticulture expert and staff writer/videographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is also enthusiastic about Bidwell Training Center. “I’ve worked on garden projects with the students since BTC’s horticulture program started and can say without doubt they are well trained and filled with enthusiasm…. When people call me looking for job candidates in the horticulture industry, the first place I point is BTC,” Oster says.


    Bidwell Training Center is more than “just a school.” It offers students a safe and nurturing environment in which to reinvent themselves after setbacks in their personal and professional lives. Erick Vail, Chemical Laboratory Technician graduate says, “I was in a bicycle accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury; I couldn’t work for six years. I found myself doubting life and questioning my future. Bidwell Training Center helped me regain my confidence and gave me a boost to get back into the workforce. I am now an air pollution control trainee with the Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Quality Program.”


    In addition to celebrating student success as part of graduation, Bidwell Training Center’s staff is proud to honor the recipient of the eighth annual Jesse W. Fife Jr. Fabric of Our Community Award, Mr. Josifani Moyo. The award showcases the extraordinary accomplishments of an individual or group who has made significant and consistent contributions to the career-training industry. Moyo, director of the Academic Support Center at BTC, has dedicated the last 42 years to those most in need of academic enrichment, career training, and employment opportunities.


    BTC’s staff and faculty would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of BTC’s commencement ceremony:


    Premier Sponsor

    UPMC Health Plan


    Partnering Sponsor

    PJ Dick – Trumbull – Lindy Paving


    Corporate Sponsors

    Community College of Allegheny County

    Coro Pittsburgh

    Scott & Susan Lammie

    Bill & Nancy Rackoff

    Rivers Casino


    About Bidwell Training Center
    For over 40 years, Bidwell Training Center has attracted national recognition for its innovative career-oriented training. We partner with leading corporations to design high-caliber, market-relevant career training majors leading to entry-level employment. Accredited by Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and named a 2012 ACCSC School of Excellence, our programming is geared toward equipping students, at no cost to them, with the necessary skills for employment in today’s ever-changing marketplace. Current majors include Chemical Laboratory Technician, Culinary Arts, Electronic Record Medical Assistant, Horticulture Technology, Medical Claims Processor, Medical Coder, and Pharmacy Technician.


    About Manchester Bidwell Corporation

    Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s supportive atmosphere of art, light and music empowers our students to become productive society members.

    • Bidwell Training Center — accredited and state licensed adult career training.
    • Drew Mathieson Center — an urban educational and production greenhouse.
    • Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s Youth & Arts — art courses to youth in the region.
    • MCG Jazz — preserves, presents, and promotes jazz music.
    • The National Center for Arts & Technology — creating similar educational environments across the U.S. and around the world.
  9. Bill Strickland’s Influence is Reaching Israel

    By Michelle Wright / WTAE Pittsburgh

    Bill Strickland has made a tremendous impact in Pittsburgh and now he’s expanding his influence around the world to help create peace. See the video of the story below:


    Bill Strickland Making an Impact in Israel