Bill Strickland was a struggling high school student in Manchester, a Pittsburgh neighborhood devastated by the steel industry’s decline, when he met Frank Ross, a ceramics art teacher who became his mentor and friend. Ross taught him about clay and introduced him to jazz and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Bill was inspired to “bring that light into my neighborhood to people who deserve it as much as anybody else, and who would respond to it as wholeheartedly and creatively as anybody else.” In 1968, Bill founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) to offer an arts program and exhibition space. In 1971, he assumed leadership of the Bidwell Training Center (BTC), a vocational training program. In 1986, a new 62,000-square-foot facility opened with art and recording studios, computer classrooms, a music hall and an industrial kitchen. Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) holds and operates these and other subsidiaries, which are nationally recognized models.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:
- The National Center for Arts and Technology (NCAT) was established as a supporting organization to replicate the programs of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center. Its local programs serve 1,750 per year. The younger students attend for afterschool programs in fields like web design and photography. Adults learn skills from phlebotomy to pharmacy technology.
- Strickland’s TED talk, ‘Bill Strickland Makes Change With a Slideshow’, accompanied by Herbie Hancock on the piano, has been watched more than 425,000 times. His book, Make the Impossible Possible, has sold more than 85,000 copies.
- NCAT now has eight centers open, 7 feasibility cities, 7 cities in cultivation, and works in 23 cities. They are also in talks with potential partners in the Caribbean, Japan, Israel and the UK with a view to opening 100 more abroad.
- The US House and Senate are working together to reintroduce a bill called the National Program for Arts and Technology Act, which would authorize $25 million over five years. It would create a new Dept of Ed program that would establish a grant mechanism for NCAT for: programming and operations at existing NCAT centers, curriculum development, program implementation and cultivation of new affiliate sites.
- NCAT is working with cities to form partnerships with their school districts to collect historical and actual data on high school attendance, behavior, and academic performance.
Bidwell Training Center (BTC):
- 78 percent graduation rate
- 80 percent job placement rate
- BTC – serves 200 students a year in adult career training programs
MCG Youth and Arts
- 93 percent of high school seniors who attended MCG Youth and Arts graduated on time versus the national rate of 75 percent
- 153 students from seven Pittsburgh school districts showcased their work at the 2012 MCG Invitational Arts Exhibition.
- 60 awards and $95,000 in scholarships were awarded to the students.
Apprenticeship Training Program (ATP) — The program on which MCG was founded more than 40 years ago, offers high school students the opportunity to refine their art skills in a safe and productive after school environment. The courses prepare students for successful futures by providing nurturing relationships with MCG’s staff of teaching artists. All ATP courses are developed to encourage learning through skills refinement, critical thinking, experiential learning opportunities as well as other activities focused on higher education and career connections. MCG offers 16 unique courses each trimester Mondays through Thursdays and open studios on Fridays.
For the past 25 years, more than half a million patrons have attended MCG Jazz’ almost 1700 concerts. MCG Jazz has produced five Grammy Award winning CDs including two Latin Grammys. The 350-seat jazz hall has attracted many of the world’s most legendary musicians – including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Ahmad Jamal.
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