Bill Strickland was born in 1947 and grew up in Manchester, an inner-city neighborhood of Pittsburgh. His life changed when he became inspired by high school art teacher Frank Ross, a skilled artisan on the potter’s wheel. The relationship that Ross and Strickland initiated with a revolving mound of clay gave form to the future vision of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. The Guild began as an after-school arts program in a donated North Side rowhouse that Strickland secured while still a college student at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1969, he graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in American history and foreign relations.
The decline of the steel industry created widespread unemployment, and Bidwell Training Center addressed the problem by offering vocational training to displaced and underemployed workers. Due to Strickland’s successful track record with MCG, he was asked in 1971 to assume leadership of BTC and guide its transition to providing skills relevant to Pittsburgh’s emerging market economy. Strickland’s involvement in both MCG and BTC doubled the strength of Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s ability to help the community. He envisioned a template for social change, and began to form relationships with businesses, government officials, and individuals who shared his vision.
Today, Manchester Bidwell Corporation has evolved into a national model for education, culture and hope. MCG Youth & Arts and MCG Jazz are both programs of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild: MCG Youth serves approximately 3,900 youth each year through classes and workshops in ceramics, photography, digital imaging and design art. MCG Arts gives students a chance to work intensively with visiting artists of national and international stature through exhibitions, lectures, workshops, residencies and school visits. MCG Jazz is dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting jazz music by bringing audiences together with jazz artists at its 350-seat music hall in Pittsburgh for innovative four-day performances and recordings. After 20 years of operation, MCG Jazz has become an anchor of Pittsburgh’s cultural and community life. Bidwell Training Center provides market-driven career education created through strong partnerships with leading local industries. The center offers accredited Associates Degree and diploma programs in fields as varied as culinary arts, chemical laboratory technologies, health careers, horticulture and office technology.
Manchester Bidwell Corporation is a business model that works. The model works so well that Bill Strickland is replicating the Manchester Bidwell enterprise throughout the country. He has said, “If this country has a future, it’s because of the ability to form visions and partnerships. I believe that we can change the United States of America in my lifetime. We’ve got to change the way this country sees itself.”
Bill Strickland and his family reside on the North Side of Pittsburgh.