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Category Archive: Bill Strickland

  1. 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.

  2. From Bidwell Training Center Graduate to Ph.D.

    Beverly Poellnitz

    Bill Strickland with Beverly Poellnitz, Ph.D., on her recent visit to Manchester Bidwell Corporation.

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) is turning 50! For five decades, Bidwell has changed lives.

    We have been privileged to share in our students’ and graduates’ journeys as they worked to transform their lives—often making great personal sacrifices to provide a better future for themselves and their families.

    We celebrate their successes and feel a deep sense of satisfaction as we watch the positive ripple effects continue over generations.

    Recently, BTC graduate Beverly Poellnitz, Ph.D., came back to visit her alma mater, and she shared her story with us.

    Poellnitz attended BTC for electrical wiring training and graduated in 1978 and became a licensed electrician. She credits BTC with giving her the confidence to move to Phoenix with her child. Poellnitz’ first job was as a low-voltage, life safety system technician where she installed fire alarms in hospital operating rooms and she continued to work in the field for years.

    Passionate about learning, Poellnitz went back to school at a community college, and 40 years later she has five degrees to her name: two associate degrees, one bachelor’s degree, one master’s degree, and one Ph.D. That’s how she got her nickname—Dr. Bev. Her accomplishments don’t stop there. In June 2017, Poellnitz became a certified storyteller.

    As part of our 50th anniversary, we are inviting alumni to get in touch with BTC to share their stories of success. You are the best part of BTC’s story—part of the rich tapestry of our history that we like to call the fabric of our community. Whether you graduated from BTC one month ago or nearly 50 years ago, we want to hear from you! Your story is part of our story, and your story can inspire others to move their lives forward in a powerful way. Go to and tell us your story.

  3. 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.”

  4. ‘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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. Hope Center seen as center of hope for many

    By Melissa Klaric / Sharon Herald

    Farrell High School junior Ramone Battle stood in front of a large group interspersed with community leaders on Friday morning and spoke from the heart about Hope Center for Arts and Technology.

    “I’m going through stuff at home and I just try to come to the ceramics program and cool myself down and just build stuff,” Ramone said.

    Ramone is one of 14 Farrell students taking the ceramics class offered through HopeCAT. The center is housed at Penn State Shenango while its future home is being remodeled at the former Sacred Heart School at 115 Anson Way, Sharon.

    In preparation for HopeCAT’s groundbreaking ceremony, Executive Director Tom Roberts placed 50 chairs in the gymnasium – the future site of the ceramics lab – and hoped there would not be too many empty seats. He never expected every seat to be filled along with every available floor space, with people standing into the hallway.

    “I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” Michael McQueen, Farrell junior, said of the number of people interested in the center. “It’s amazing because I feel like I helped to get everyone to start talking about this.”

    Two Farrell seniors in this first class offered by HopeCAT, neither of whom had considered college, have signed up to attend Penn State Shenango, Roberts said.

    State representatives from Pennsylvania and Ohio, a county commissioner, Sharon city council members, local business owners and curious community members were among the estimated 125 people who turned out to celebrate the progress made in the reconstruction of the school.

    “I’m thankful for everyone who’s made this possible for us,” Ramone said. “I know everyone in Farrell that’s here right now that’s doing this is very, very grateful.”

    Foundations, individuals, and the HopeCAT board have raised almost $2 million toward the center.

    Construction, including new windows, new roof and first-floor renovation, will be completed in phases as more funds are procured. Phase I is slated to be completed by the end of the summer and school officials are hopeful that the school will be in operation by the end of the year.

    When completed the school will be a replication of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh. HopeCAT is the ninth training center to open across the nation using this educational model. A 10th center will be opening soon in Israel.

    The training model is designed to help high school students transition to higher education and give adults skills needed in the area job market.

    “A lot of people are hurting,” William E. “Bill” Strickland Jr., president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., said.

    “They’re unemployed. They don’t have skills. They’re on public assistance. They need a chance. And something like this will provide them with a lifetime opportunity.”

    Although the program is of no cost to the student, it is not free.

    “It’s the combination of legislatively-directed money,” Roberts said.

    “In working with the state, the county, employers and with people like you and me that just live and work in this community, you’re truly able to take people and get them off of assistance and put them to work.”

    Roberts said the cost to taxpayers for housing and food assistance is $13,000 per year, compared to the approximately $12,500 it costs to train someone.

    “So you train them one time and after 10 months they graduate, pass their certification, and start working,” Roberts said.

    “Now they’re off of assistance and they’re paying taxes.”

    “This is why this resonates – because it’s truly a hand-off not a hand-out,” Roberts said.

    “It’s a public-private partnership, and the beauty of this model is economic development at its best.”

    Strickland said the program works. He and Roberts noted that the center in Brockway, Pa., has graduated two classes – and every person got a job and almost everyone got a raise in their first year of employment.

    “What you’re doing is building a tradition of excellence in Hope,” Strickland said, “so that we can begin to break this cycle of sadness and build something that has permanence and opportunity associated with it.”


    See the original story here.

  9. Hope Center for Arts and Technology breaks ground in Sharon

    By Danielle Cotterman/ WFMJ

    An idea sparked in Pittsburgh is inspiring children and adults all across the U.S. to dive into the arts and find what motivates them.

    Piles of rock and boarded up windows at the former Sacred Heart Elementary school in Sharon don’t look like much. But, a little “HOPE” could go a long way after a ground breaking ceremony took place Friday.

    “It means everything to have this building, it’s a home. When you have a picture and when you have a concept what do you have? It’s a hard sell,” said Executive Director Hope Center for Arts and Technology Tom Roberts.

    But, one that’s already been made.

    The former school building is in the process of being transformed into the Hope Center for Arts and Technology.

    “The secret to this is we are teaching ceramics but, it has nothing to do with ceramics. It’s really truly all about mentorship and about working with the kids to help them discover what really drives them and what their motivations are,” said Roberts.

    The Hope Center’s ceramic program is currently housed at Penn State Shenango but, once construction at the new facility is finished later this year, their program can expand to not only offer art education but, career training for adults.

    An education model started by Bill Strickland, Founder and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh.

    “Public school kid got excited about the arts in the 60’s and started working with kids in the streets, during the riots,” explained Strickland. “After awhile I figured it out. The kids were fine they just needed somebody to believe in them. So I started the program literally in 1968, and have been doing it ever since.”

    And as local students testify, it’s a program already taking affect in their lives.

    “It helps us express who we are,” said Ramone Battle, Farrell High School Junior.

    For more information on the Hope Center for Arts and Technology, visit

    For more information about Bill Strickland, Manchester Bidwell Corporation, and the National Center for Arts and Technology, visit


    See the original story and video here.