About the NEA

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild: Crafting Confidence


Photo of a girl with glasses working on a small clay human figure. The little figure and the girl's hands are in sharp focus in the foreground, while her face is a little blured in the background.

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild offers free instruction in ceramics, digital design, painting, drawing, photography and media arts. Photo by Lynn Johnson

1984Bill Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in 1968, after being introduced to ceramics as a teenager. Initially an informal, neighborhood-based art program for inner-city children, the Guild has become a nationally renowned arts training center serving thousands of urban young people and other community residents.

In 1984, the Guild received an NEA Challenge grant of $250,000. The grant was a key part of the Guild's capital campaign that resulted in a 62,500 square foot facility. Today the structure includes classrooms, permanent photography and ceramic art studios, a multi-purpose exhibition space, concert hall, library, and cafeteria.

Two young men observe and comment on a sculpture. They are in an exhibit hall, other people can be seen looking at exhibited pieces in the background.

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild provides art classes and career training to Pittsburgh teens, with support from the Arts Endowment. Photo by Lynn Johnson

A young woman, on the left side of the frame gestures to an older man who is looking at her. They are both leaning over a light table with several strips of negative fotographic film.

Over 75 percent of the Guild's participants have gone on directly to college after completing high school. One is now a photojournalist at the Detroit Free Press. Photo by Lynn Johnson

The Guild continues to serve youth with its free MCG Youth programs, including an artists-in-schools program and after-school and summer programs in ceramics, digital arts, design arts, and photography. Students can also take part in the award-winning Apprentice Training Program, in which participants work with master artists once per week for five to 10 weeks. The Guild also sponsors up to six exhibits by visiting artists each academic year along with two student shows featuring work from students in Guild programs as well as those involved in Pittsburgh Public Schools art classes.

Alumnus Sharif Bey, a Fulbright scholar and doctoral candidate, remembers, "All student presentations were exhibited in the same fashion as the visiting artists, which really raised the standards . . . At the Guild, I discovered the sense of trust that comes from knowing someone has confidence in you."

Another Guild program is MCG Jazz, a program of performances with master jazz artists. In 2006 the Guild will present more than 100 performances including concerts by NEA Jazz Masters Dave Brubeck and Dr. Billy Taylor. In 1995 MCG Jazz expanded its jazz offerings to include a record label, which has since garnered three Grammy awards for its recordings.

The Guild serves adults through its adult education classes and the Denali Initiative, a fellowship program for nonprofit executives wishing to develop social entrepreneurship ventures in their home communities.

For more than two decades the outstanding programs of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild have continued to receive NEA support. Strickland, now President and CEO of the Guild and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, says, "The National Endowment grant funds have provided a platform [from] which Manchester Craftsmen's Guild has created nationally recognized programs in the arts, education, entrepreneurship, and community economic development. It is a textbook example about how government, the private sector, and the social sector can form a strategic alliance on behalf of its most disadvantaged citizens."