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Category Archive: MCG Youth & Arts

  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. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. Innovator of the Week: Bill Strickland, Manchester Bidwell Corporation

    By Nicole Rupersburg

     

    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 short just a bit – Strickland, who is the President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to serve as a board member of the National Endowment for the Arts and lecture 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 until he met his 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 in the streets through an after-school arts program.

    In 1968, inspired by what Ross had taught him, Strickland was running a small after-school ceramics program on a regular basis as a way to give back to his struggling neighborhood. That program is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program, serving public school students with classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3D manufacturing, and photography.

    By 1972, Strickland had took over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild that he was able to rebuild into a “pretty good” job training and vocational education 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 horticultural to medical to the culinary arts.

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

    On the arts side of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, there is an abundance of arts education opportunities for public school students in middle school and high school, as well as evening arts education programming for adults.

    “Our goal of is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” Strickland says. “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 always continue on with Manchester Bidwell in their vocational training (for ages 18 and up).

    By talking to industry leaders to determine what their workforce and skills training needs are, Strickland has been able to get them engaged and invested in developing the curriculum and training their future employees.

    “It’s a very close working partnership and we think this is a good methodology for building our curriculum.”

    Strickland says between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained, in addition to the 90 percent average of kids in the arts program graduating from high school. These numbers are also consistent across Manchester Bidwell’s eight affiliate sites too.

    These eight affiliates operate in different cities across the United States and follow the same model as Pittsburgh’s. There are five more cities with affiliate sites in the works, which Strickland says should all be online in the next 18 months. He says their goal is to eventually have 100 affiliate centers throughout the country.

    While Strickland has reason to be proud of the successes 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. This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

     

    See the original story here.

  6. Town Hall South hosts Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild founder in Upper St. Clair

    By Harry Funk / the almanac

    For Bill Strickland to tell his story, he needs a book.

    Actually, he’s written it: “Make the Impossible Possible,” co-authored by Vince Rause.

    “Buy the book,” he told the audience in the Upper St. Clair High School auditorium. “It’s big type and it’s real short.”

    That self-effacing comment generated a round of laughter and applause, a constant theme throughout his talk Feb. 2 as part of the Town Hall South lecture series.

    But while he is an entertaining speaker, the founder of the North Side’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild brings a serious message:

    “Environment drives behavior,” he said. “If you treat children like world-class citizens, they tend to behave that way.”

    As an example, Strickland cited Bidwell Training Center, the school he has run since 1972. Located in his lifelong neighborhood of Manchester, which has one of Pittsburgh’s highest crime rates, Bidwell lacks the likes of metal detectors, security cameras, on-site security personnel or other measures that have become standard for inner-city education.

    Instead of making students feel like they’re in jail, Strickland said, the Bidwell building is designed to present a friendly, inviting atmosphere bathed in natural light.

    “The sun is for everybody on the planet, not just for rich kids,” he explained.

    His own background could have been typical of others who were subjected to what occurred in his opposite-of-rich neighborhood in the 1960s.

    “We called them what they were,” Strickland said. “They were riots. There were guys getting shot.”

    Meanwhile, one of his Oliver High School teachers got him interested in pottery, and in 1968, as a University of Pittsburgh Student, he opened the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild as an after-school program for youngsters to pursue that form of expression.

    Four years later, in his mid-20s, he took over leadership of the nearby Bidwell Training Center, where he promptly received a visit from “a white man with a gold badge, looking for the new director. This was my first day.”

    The visitor was from the IRS, with this message: “Your center owes us $300,000.” “That’s something they neglected to mention during my job interview,” Strickland joked, generating more laughter. Then he told about how he raised the money to save the school, which generated another round of applause.

    Today, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center, which share space in a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building on Metropolitan Street, continue to offer free programs for people throughout the region who want to continue their education in a wide variety of fields.

    Through the National Center for Arts and Technology, a division of his nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corp., Strickland is sharing his educational model across the country and even internationally.

    He spoke about the recently opened Akko Center for Arts and Technology in northern Israel, where members of the Jewish and Arab communities are studying together without incident.

    Showing the audience a projected image of himself with Shimon Peres, Strickland shared what he was told by the former Israeli president:

    “I think you’re on the way to solving the problem in the Middle East.”

    Talk about potential material for another book.

    See the original story here.

  7. 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.

  8. Pittsburgh Profiles: Bill Strickland – The Solution Man

    from Popular Pittsburgh.com

    “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.

  9. 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 – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151201/292287

    “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
    www.hollistaggart.com
    info@hollistaggart.com

    www.marlafriedman.com

     

    To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/manchester-bidwell-corporation-celebrates-rosa-parks-historic-contribution-to-the-civil-rights-movement-with-installation-of-portrait-sculpture-by-renowned-artist-marla-friedman-300186389.html

    SOURCE Manchester Bidwell Corporation

  10. Art review: ‘Pixels to Particles: Brooks Oliver’ at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild

    By Kurt Shaw/Pittsburgh Tribune Review

    An amateur magician when he was a kid, ceramicist Brooks Oliver of Grand Prairie, Texas, has always been fascinated by illusions.

    “I have identified three crucial aspects to creating a successful illusion,” he says: “To make the viewer question their assumptions, to construct a context around how the viewer perceives what is happening, and to generate a moment where belief is suspended.”

    Within his own work as a ceramicist, he uses the vessel form to convey his fascination with these three aspects of an illusion.

    On display at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, his latest exhibit “Pixels to Particles: Brooks Oliver” features his ceramic works that are something of an illusion in themselves.

    Cups, bowls and vases, they all began with the use of computer-aided design programs and 3-D printers to create prototypes that enable him to make molds and cast these forms in clay.

    Oliver received his master’s of fine arts in studio art with a ceramics concentration at Penn State University in 2014. While there, he also taught and acted as a ceramics technical assistant. He received his bachelor of fine arts in studio arts with ceramics and sculpture concentrations at Southern Methodist University in 2010, and then completed his post-baccalaureate studies at Syracuse University in 2012. Currently, he is a long-term resident at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Mont.

    “Ceramic vessels, such as ceramic plates, bowls and mugs, are everyday-use objects that we are all very familiar with,” Oliver says. “My work is all about reimagining or putting somewhat of a twist on these familiar things.”

    As viewers will see, by marrying the production techniques of computer-assisted design software and rapid prototyping technologies with the creation techniques of the hand, a unique dialog can be formed between the digital and clay that ultimately influences both ways of making.

    Partially influenced by his two years of undergraduate training in engineering, Oliver’s work tends to incorporate elements of engineering and math through tight, minimalist forms revolving around simple geometries.

    “As with any good magic trick, one takes something that is familiar or known to be true and then flips that assumption into something that is the opposite or the unfamiliar,” Oliver says. “With this in mind, I create elements of illusion in the forms, surfaces and materials I use.”

    For example, “14 in 1 Vase” and “W Vase” are about playing with the idea of vases having multiple openings and trying to rethink the way that flowers can be displayed. In the former, 14 bud vases form a circle, and when each individual vase is filled, it forms a bouquet. In the latter, the letter W made from mirrored but adjoining parts offers two ways to display flowers at the same time.

    Both of these pieces are filled with flower arrangements by Reiko Nakajima and Atsumi Sewell of Sogetsu Pittsburgh Study Group (sogetsu-pittsburgh.org). Sogetsu is a school of ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Ikebana literally translates to “living flowers.” It is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It is steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature.

    In 1927, the Sogetsu school was founded upon the belief that anyone can enjoy ikebana anytime, anywhere, using any material. Sogetsu ikebana can enhance any environment and enrich its atmosphere.

    “Similarly, I strive to create illusions of form involving aspects of apparent movement, defiance of gravity or elements of balance where the viewer is drawn in to closely inspect conflicting dualities of form,” Oliver says. “I am extremely interested when one’s visually perceived knowledge is contrary to that of known reality.”

    A frequent theme of Oliver’s work involves his attempt to reimagine and reinterpret the familiar functional vessel.

    “By isolating, altering and exploiting the necessary components that comprise a vessel, I attempt to provide new visions of utilitarian ceramic wares,” he writes in his statement.

    With his “Stem Vase,” Oliver wanted to create a vase that allowed the viewer to see and appreciate the stems of the flowers it contained. A circular form at the top of the vase serves as the opening, and a small dish connected at the base, the receptacle for water, allows the viewer to see the stems of the flowers without any obstruction.

    “That piece is really all about rethinking the vase to the point that it lets you see and appreciate the whole flower,” he says. “One could argue that the vessel is all about containing and transporting its contents, but usually a vessel’s design is not one that allows for movement aside from someone picking it up and moving it.”

    In direct contrast to this idea, Oliver’s “Wobble Series” — which includes the pieces here, “Wobble Vase” and “Wobble Bowl” — is all about creating a clay vessel that is designed to safely move on its own, say by a simple push or stiff breeze.

    “Recently, I have become fascinated with creating functional objects that are all about the display of what they contain,” Oliver says. “I like to joke that sometimes I feel like I make the ‘martini glasses’ of the vessel world in that all my forms are about the presentation and display of what they contain, and while they do certainly function, one is forced to always be very conscious of this use as sometimes they are not the easiest things to use.”

    See the original story and photos of the exhibit here.

Events
  • April 25, 2017 – BTC Medical Claims Processor Program Start Date
    11:59 pm, Bidwell Training Center