Bill Strickland's Vision

by Jen Allen

“Entrepreneurs are, by definition, visionaries. The use of art to change students' attitudes is at the heart of my vision of education. I see a connection between the creativity instilled by a love of the arts, and the skills needed for business success. Artists are by nature entrepreneurs. They can visualize something that doesn't exist, to look at a canvas and see a painting. Entrepreneurs and artists are interchangeable.” –Bill Strickland

As an inner city kid in Pittsburgh during the decline of the steel industry, Bill Strickland’s future was turned around by the mentorship of potter and teacher, Frank Ross.  The story of Mr. Strickland’s life from the moment he saw Frank Ross turning a pot on the potter’s wheel is one of hope, change and human decency.  With the start of a new year, what better time than to share the thoughts of a MacArthur “Genius Fellow”, a true visionary, someone I deeply admire and respect.

My introduction to Bill Strickland was during the 2008 NCECA Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, when I found myself in the audience of his keynote lecture.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak a handful more times, each talk as moving as the first.  In 2012, as part of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant (NEA Grant), I was invited to demonstrate my ceramic processes at Manchester Craftsman Guild, an after school arts and career training center founded by Mr. Strickland.  During my visit to MCG, I was thoroughly impressed not only by the facilities and the staff, but by the level of engagement of the students.  My experience at MCG along with Mr. Strickland’s inspirational methods for change has helped shaped the way I approach teaching. 

 Here is a lecture that Mr. Strickland delivered at TEDxMidwest, Enjoy!