• Awarded: 2007
  • Issue Areas: Economic Opportunity · Education · Secondary Education · Youth Job Skills
  • Region: North America
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Manchester Bidwell Corporation has a simple philosophy – environment shapes people’s lives. By constructing an empowering atmosphere of art, light, and music, and through the work of a staff that strives to realize the genius in everyone, they enable their students to become productive members of society.

    Manchester Bidwell’s diverse programming combines to create empowering educational environments for adults-in-transition as well as urban and at-risk youth, enriching southwestern Pennsylvania and, eventually, the world.

    Manchester Bidwell combines many seemingly disparate elements – adult career training, youth arts education, jazz presentation, orchid and flora sales – into a dynamic whole with a proven record of positively changing the lives of underserved populations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.

    The Corporation encompasses a wide range of affiliated organizations, including a horticultural training center, arts programs for youth, and a career center for adults in transition.

    Their National Center for Arts and Technology is dedicated to spreading Manchester Bidwell’s educational model across the United States and around the world.

    Youth in impoverished urban environments have few opportunities to reach their full potential.

    MBC programs provide arts and career education in environments that foster inspiration and the development of life skills.

    Bill Strickland was inspired by a mentor who taught him about clay and introduced him to jazz and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Programs in 23 cities serve 1,750 students per year.

    Ambition for Change

    Arts and career education in a beautiful, professional environment fosters inspiration and the development of life skills.

    Path to Scale

    Demonstration and Independent Replication

    Local leaders create Centers for Arts and Technology in their own communities.

    Business Model

    Core operating costs covered by partners’ service fees; public and philanthropic funding to launch replication programs.

    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 holds and operates these and other subsidiaries, which are nationally recognized models. At the time of the Award, the National Center for Arts and Technology (NCAT) had been established as a supporting organization to replicate the MCG and BTC programs, and arts and technology centers were operating in San Francisco, Grand Rapids, and Cincinnati, and in development in and other U.S. cities.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Working in 23 cities with eight centers open, seven cities studying the feasibility of developing centers, and seven cities in preliminary consideration.
    • Local programs serve 1,750 students per year. Younger students attend afterschool programs in fields such as web design and photography, while adults learn skills from phlebotomy to pharmacy technology.
    • MBC runs an after-school arts program for up to 500 children per year, with children in the program at 98 percent likelihood of graduating high school – twice the local average.
    • Bidwell Training Center has a 78 percent graduation rate, an 80 percent job placement rate, and serves 200 students a year in adult career training programs.
    • The MCG Youth and Arts program has a 93 percent rate of on time graduation, versus the national rate of 75 percent.


    Erik RueterDirector of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications, Manchester Bidwell Corporation

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