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Demand to hear social visionary, Pittsburgh entrepreneur so great talk now open to public


Bill Strickland teaches a student in the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. (Photo from Strickland)

 
Staff report
 
The saying goes: All roads lead to Pittsburgh. Right? That may not be the saying, but since social entrepreneur Bill Strickland created the Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh and made it a national business model for organizations seeking to impact underserved populations, it might as well be the origin of all roads.
 
Now, Bill Strickland and University of Kentucky master’s of social work graduate Josh Nadzam are bringing the model to Lexington. Originally, Nadzam intended to bring Strickland to speak to “key stakeholders and those who were serious about making this happen in Lexington.” Nadzam restricted the group to 25-50 people who would be involved in replicating Strickland’s Pittsburgh project locally.
 
“However,” wrote Nadzam in a press release, “the requests for seating grew exponentially and quickly exceeded the capacity of the DeWeese Street Community Room in the Lyric Theatre. I felt very uncomfortable turning people away and excluding others; regardless of your profession or interests, all guests will benefit from hearing Bill’s talk.” So, the event is now open to the public and has been moved to the main auditorium of the Lyric Theatre at 300 E. Third St. in Lexington.
 
Strickland will speak May 21 at 10 a.m. with a reception afterwards in the DeWeese Street Community Room. Nadzam advises everyone to arrive at least 20 minutes early.
 

Bill Strickland speaking to members of the public. (Photo from Strickland)

Nadzam first became interested in Strickland’s Pittsburgh work when a friend recommended he read Strickland’s book Make the Impossible Possible. Nadzam learned that the nonprofit empowerment program that began in Pittsburgh has been replicated so far in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Grand Rapids and New Haven. Nadzam, who grew up in poverty in a small Pennsylvania town, decided to add Lexington to the list and to bring the program as well as its founder here.
 
Strickland was born and grew up in an inner-city neighborhood of Pittsburgh called Manchester. He was inspired by a high school art teacher whose work at the potter’s wheel seeded Strickland’s original idea for the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He began the Guild as an after-school arts program for impoverished youth in his old neighborhood after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.
 
His Guild success caught the attention of management and backers of the Bidwell Training Center which was created to address the problem of widespread unemployment after the decline of the local steel industry. Strickland was asked to assume leadership of the BTC. He did in 1971 and soon combined his Guild with the Training Center and created today’s Manchester Bidwell Corporation.
 

Strickland at the potter's wheel. (Photo from Strickland)

Strickland is nationally known as a visionary who provides educational and cultural opportunities to youth and adults within “an organizational culture that fosters innovation, creativity, responsibility and integrity,” according to his website. He is quoted on the site as saying, “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.”
 
The recipient of 10 honorary degrees and the MacArthur “Genius” award is bringing that belief to Lexington next Tuesday.
 
For more information about Manchester Bidwell Corporation and Bill Strickland, click here.
 
You may also be interested in reading the original story about Josh Nadzam and his local vision at UK social work graduate launches Lexington project to help escape tough circumstances.


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