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Our Story

Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) combines many seemingly disparate elements – adult career training, youth arts education, jazz presentation and  botanical sales – into a dynamic whole with a proven record of positively changing the lives of underserved populations in the Pittsburgh-area.


The History of Manchester Bidwell Corporation 


Our organization originated when a young, disengaged African-American man met Pittsburgh Public High School art teacher Frank Ross in the 1960s. Ross mentored our Founder & Executive Chairman Bill Strickland throughout his teenage years. He impressed upon Strickland the powers of art, education and community and helped him obtain entrance to the University of Pittsburgh.


Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is Founded


Wanting to give back to his struggling neighborhood the opportunities he received through Ross’ generosity, Strickland started a small ceramics program while he was still in college in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood in 1968.


Strickland christened the program the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) because he admired the European guild system in which masters passed on their skills and knowledge to young apprentices.


Now, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild has two programs housed under it: the MCG Youth & Arts program, which serves public school students by offering courses in our ceramics, design, digital and photography studios, and MCG Jazz, which has been preserving, promoting and presenting jazz through its concert series and educational programming since 1987.


Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Acquires Bidwell Training Center


In 1972, Strickland assumed leadership of a struggling trade school located near MCG. Over the years, Bidwell Training Center (BTC) evolved to offer programs in fields ranging from horticulture to medical. Currently, BTC is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution.


BTC’s majors were created through strong partnerships with leading Pittsburgh corporations, agencies and organizations. Several of these majors include externships with area companies, enabling students to gain practical on-the-job experience plus valuable professional contacts and references.


Social Enterprise Begins


Since then, other organizations have been added to the MBC family – all in support of creating an environment in which people would flourish.


The Drew Mathieson Greenhouse (DMG), established in 2005, contributes additional educational facilities to BTC as well as a sustainable source of beauty for our students. The DMG also offers wholesale and retail plant sales.


Our powerful fusion of mentorship, education, beauty and hope creates a safe space in which our students, young and older, can feel comfortable learning. We are so confident in our vision that we founded the National Center for Arts & Technology to help others create similar educational environments around the world. Currently, 13 locations nationally and internationally are in operation in addition to MBC.

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