Advocate of arts, kids to speak in capital city

Strickland to explain how he's used art to turn lives around

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2000

Bill Strickland's ideas have changed the lives of hundreds of people.

The Pittsburgh man, who has drawn national attention for his work with troubled young people, his advocacy for the arts and his innovative social programs, will talk about his work at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Centennial Hall.

This is the first presentation in the Governor's Millennium Lecture series. A panel discussion will follow and admission is free.

Strickland is the founder and director of an art school and craftsman's guild, a vocational training center and a network of community programs that have become national models.

He has received many awards for his work, including the MacArthur Genius Award in 1996, a $295,000 grant for leadership and ingenuity.

In a recent interview with Pitt magazine, the alumni magazine for the University of Pittsburg, Strickland talked about founding the Manchester Craftsman's Guild, which provides arts education for 300 public school students each year.

It started in 1968 when Strickland, fresh out of college, began teaching ceramics to poor students in Pittsburg.

``My reason for starting the guild was to improve the neighborhood where I was raised,'' he said. ``I thought the arts would give underprivileged children a sense of importance that they badly needed. It wasn't so much intended to turn them into master craftsmen or professional photographers but give them confidence and motivation.''

Strickland also started the Bidwell Training Center, a nonprofit vocational center for adults, and he oversees a for-profit food service component to Bidwell's culinary arts program. He also created the Business and Industrial Corp., which assists women and minorities in creating new businesses.

First lady Susan Knowles, chairwoman of the group that organized the lecture series, said Strickland has been successful in bringing a broad base of resources to support arts programs.

She asked him to discuss with Alaskans how he's used art to turn around the lives of at-risk teen-agers.

``I hope his lecture will focus on both what he's done and how he's done it,'' she said.

Following Strickland's presentation Wednesday night, three panelists will join the speaker to address the topics with the public. Panelist include John Pugh, chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast; Aldona Jonaitis, head of the museum at University of Alaska Fairbanks; and Joan Hamilton, who serves as a museum director in Bethel and works with substance abuse programs.

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