West Virginia’s coal industry is shifting into a lower gear, creating widespread economic issues and challenging communities to reframe their identities. But where there is challenge, there is also opportunity—and the state needs to look no farther away than Pittsburgh for an example of economic transformation.
Using the decline of the steel industry and widespread unemployment, Bill Strickland, this year’s Deem Distinguished Lecture speaker at West Virginia University’s School of Art and Design, learned how hardships and obstacles could be overcome through vocational training and the arts.
Strickland, now the Manchester Bidwell Corporation’s president and chief operating officer, grew up in inner-city Pittsburgh, where he was inspired by his high school art teacher, Frank Ross, who was also a potter. The relationship that Ross and Strickland initiated with a revolving mound of clay gave form to the future vision of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, which got its start in a donated North Side rowhouse Strickland secured while he was still in college at the University of Pittsburgh.
As the steel industry deteriorated, Bidwell Training Center addressed the problem by offering vocational training to displaced and underemployed workers, tapping Strickland 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.
Today, Manchester Bidwell Corporation has evolved into a national model for education, culture and hope.
Strickland will speak about how the impossible becomes possible at 5 p.m. March 2 in Bloch Learning and Performance Hall at the Creative Arts Center.
“If we want our students to think about how to truly maximize their potential and the possibilities arts education has to create a life that can be rewarding, uplifting and contributing significantly to betterment of communities, Bill Strickland is that voice,” said Shoji Satake, coordinator and associate professor of ceramics at WVU. “He has gone on to change the lives of thousands of people throughout the country. His story goes beyond the arts and the potential that art has to change the world.”
Funded by Patrick and Alison Deem, the Deem Distinguished lecture began more than 20 years ago. The annual event helps further the WVU education experience by exposing students and faculty to cutting-edge artists and arts supporters.
CONTACT: Bernadette Dombrowski, College of Creative Arts