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Category Archive: MCG Youth & Arts

  1. 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.”

  2. 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.

  3. MCG Creativity Continues at Harvard University

    Cynthia Gu’s Recycled Tinkerbell Dress

    Cynthia Gu’s Recycled Tinkerbell Dress, 2014. Photograph by Richena
    Brockinson.

    On the surface MCG Youth & Arts (MCG), an affiliate of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, gives Pittsburgh students the rare opportunity to explore their artistic side. However, it also gives students the confidence and skills to succeed in school and reach new heights. Harvard University junior Cynthia Gu is the epitome of that success.

    Stepping into the design studio classroom at (MCG) was an influential moment for Cynthia Gu. A Pittsburgh Taylor Allderdice student at the time, Cynthia would spend the next four years of her high school career designing and constructing dresses out of reclaimed materials every day at MCG. The components of Cynthia’s designs ranged from ordinary garbage bags to recycled homework assignment papers. Cynthia loved the idea of upcycling—taking what most would consider trash and transforming it into something beautiful and wearable. The MCG teaching artists worked with Cynthia on her sewing and design skills as she created more stunning dresses. Cynthia’s time at MCG culminated in a fashion show at The Andy Warhol Museum showcasing her unique dresses constructed out of upcycled materials.

    Cynthia had already built a lengthy portfolio showcasing her designs from MCG when the time came to think about colleges. Working with MCG’s teaching artists, Cynthia submitted applications to several prestigious universities. She chose to write her entrance essays on a topic close to her heart: her time spent at MCG and its impact on her education.

    “I believe the process of making art is such an undervalued skill and activity,” wrote Cynthia in her applications. “It helped me to develop skills that are not reflected in the regular school curriculum.”

    Cynthia Gu

    Cynthia Gu modeling her Recycled Tinkerbell Dress. Photograph by Richena Brockinson.

    Cynthia’s essay clearly made an impact. She is currently a junior at Harvard where she is studying applied mathematics. Even with a heavy course load, Cynthia remains dedicated to incorporating her art into her busy schedule. She has been featured in several fashion shows at Harvard and MIT and has already completed several courses in the visual arts department of her university. There is even a ceramics studio right inside of Cynthia’s dormitory where she is able to continue her passion of creating things from recycled materials.

    When asked about what she learned in her time at MCG that she carries with her today, Cynthia has a simple reply: “I learned to not be afraid of leaving my comfort zone. To this day, I have used artistic skills from MCG to form innovative solutions to problems in school and in life.”

    See more of Cynthia’s work at cynthia-gu.com.

  4. MCG Youth & Arts’ New Exhibit: “Mad House”

    Adhemas Batista

    Illustration by Adhemas Batista created for Brazil’s Allegra Bitter Beer.

    MCG Youth & Arts’ next visiting artist, Adhemas Batista, is a designer, illustrator, and animation director working in Los Angeles. His vast client list includes Adidas, Asics, Beats, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Unilever, and more. The hallmark of his work is bright, vivid imagery.

    Born in San Paulo, Brazil, Batista draws inspiration from urban art and pop culture and influences of Brazilian tropical culture. A self-taught digital artist, his work includes a variety of design, illustration, typography and animation.

    He co-created an animated short for Unicef titled “Malak and the Boat,” which drew attention to the plight of Syrian children. The short won a Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2016. Batista’s other awards include nine Lions at the Cannes Festival, a Brazilian Young Creative award at the
    Cannes Festival in 2003, and three Golden Statues at the London International Awards.

    “Mad House” runs through Jan. 5, with a public reception on Nov. 16. He will also conduct a workshop with MCG Youth & Arts high school students in November. Visit mcgyouthandarts.org for more information.

  5. Transformative Teaching Artist Richena Brockinson

    Richena Brockinson, MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist

    Richena Brockinson, MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist

     

    MCG Youth & Arts teaching artist Richena Brockinson was selected as one of ten Pittsburgh-area arts educators to receive the New Sun Rising Transformative Teaching Artist Award. Brockinson was once a student at MCG and returned years later to teach in the photography department where she imbues her classes with a special blend of kindness, caring, and tough love.

    With the support of the Heinz Endowments, New Sun Rising awarded the 10 finalists $5,000 each and recognized their work with youth from African American and distressed communities.

    “I am honored to be a part of a group of such outstanding teaching artists; such beautiful and inspiring people,” said Brockinson.

    The Transformative Teaching Artist Award not only shines a light on the exceptional educators who won the award, but on the important role of all teaching artists. According to a statement released by New Sun Rising, “Teaching artists play critical roles in the lives of the youth they serve, providing not only artistic skill building, but caring, support, and mentorship. Yet those teaching artists who have chosen this as their life’s work face great challenges in building teaching artist careers.”

    For more than 10 years, New Sun Rising has supported innovative organizations that create economic opportunity and solve social challenges.

    The Heinz Endowments focuses on stirring creativity, learning, and environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the region.

    In addition to Brockinson, winners included Alisha Wormsley, Kim El, Celeta Hickman, Jordan Taylor, Shimira Williams, Akil Esoon, Mario Quinn Lyles, Bekezela Mguni, and Thomas Chatman.

  6. Shining the 50th Anniversary Spotlight on Our Sustaining Donors

    Grace Hampton sustaining donor

    Grace Hampton, Ph.D., MCG Youth & Arts sustaining donor.

    Before Bill Strickland realized his dream of opening a center to serve the youth and adults in the Pittsburgh area, he made a connection to a special individual at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Little did Bill know then that this individual would play an important role in the success at Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC).

    Grace Hampton, Ph.D., was the assistant director of the Expansion Arts Program at the NEA and witnessed the growth of the programs that Strickland was spearheading in Pittsburgh. Hampton has been a sustaining donor to MCG Youth & Arts for over three years. She—along with our other sustaining donors—provides a steady, reliable stream of support every month so that we can continue to provide our programs to people in need.

    Hampton spoke about why she made the decision to become a monthly donor to MCG Youth & Arts and why she believes others should do the same.

    “For many years I have tracked and watched MCG grow and become an important national asset to the arts in America—community arts in particular,” said Hampton. “The Guild is a leader in many areas and has nurtured the minds and the creative spirits of children and adults alike through the multiple youth programs and the fabulous jazz concerts presented.”

    She also had thoughts on MBC’s 50th anniversary and why it is so important for our sustaining giving program to grow stronger. “I know that the growth of the Guild has not stopped,” said Hampton. “I expect even more great things from MCG in the next 50 years.”

    Want to join Hampton and the dedicated group of people who provide monthly support to transform our students’ lives each day? To make a sustaining gift of $50 in honor of our 50th anniversary, or any amount that is right for you visit manchesterbidwell.org/about/support-donate/donate.

  7. ‘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.

  8. 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.

  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. 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 jfedpgh.org/iaedday. Contact Eric Probola at 412-992-5247 or eprobola@jfedpgh.org for more information or to submit questions to panelists in advance.

    Read more: The Jewish Chronicle – Metro Briefs March 17