Based on the Manchester Bidwell Model
ECAT is the Erie replication of the Manchester Bidwell education model, founded by Bill Strickland in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh in the 1960’s. The model is based on three core philosophies:
3 core philosophies
Environment Shapes Behavior
all people are assets
creativity fuels enterprise
ECAT joins other replication sites nationwide, replicating Manchester Bidwell and Strickland’s theories of adult and youth training to impact local communities that include Sharon, Brockway and Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania, as well as urban centers such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Grand Rapids, New Haven and Chicago.
History of the Manchester Bidwell Model
That’s the power of art. Art is a bridge. It connects you to a wider world, to a broader experience. I don’t expect a bunch of poor kids from the streets to become overnight aficionados because they see a pretty picture, but don’t try to tell me that exposure to the arts doesn’t have the power to change a human being. It gets in their bones, man. It gets in all our bones–that is the power of art in our lives.Bill Strickland, Make the Impossible Possible.
As a replication site, ECAT shares its roots with the original Manchester Bidwell model, founded by Bill Strickland.
Bill was born in 1947 and grew up in Manchester, an inner-city neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In high school, he was an aimless kid, coasting through school, bored and disengaged, with no sense of what to do after graduation.
His life changed when he was inspired by high school ceramics teacher Frank Ross. Working with clay in Mr. Ross’ art studio gave Bill a sense of purpose and direction. Wanting to share that powerful experience with others, Strickland formed the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG), an after-school arts program on the North Side of Pittsburgh.
After finding success with the MCG, Bill was asked to lead the Bidwell Training Center (BTC), a program providing adult career training. He applied the same principles that made MCG successful and turned around the struggling training center. Today, the Bidwell Training Center continues to prepare graduates for middle wage jobs in Pittsburgh’s emerging market economy.
Strickland’s success led him to an important observation:
In spaces that have an atmosphere of art, light and beauty, students naturally find the opportunities and tools needed to envision and build a better, brighter future for themselves.
This observation frames the three guiding principles of the Manchester Bidwell Model:
Environment Shapes Behavior
Everything about the physical, emotional and philosophical atmosphere at our center is purposeful – the way the light fills the rooms, the art on the wall and the friendliness of our staff.
We believe that everyone, no matter their background, deserves beauty, respect and the opportunity to learn in a safe space. When provided with these, the underserved will become world-class, productive citizens.
People are Assets
We believe that people are born as assets. Given the proper positive environment, any person can grow the seed of personal genius buried inside them.
By providing encouragement, opportunity and resources, we strive to keep community members, young and older, on the positive side of the social balance sheet.
Creativity Fuels Enterprise
Society and the economy are driven forward when new ideas become reality. At our center, we embrace and encourage creative thought.
Given the chance to dream, anyone may have an opportunity to create something – a product, artwork, a business – that will change the world.
To replicate this model, the Manchester Bidwell Corporation was formed and has guided over a dozen replication sites, including one right here in Erie.
Erie’s path to replication began in 2013 when Bill Strickland was invited to speak at Mercyhurst University. Inspired to bring the Manchester Bidwell Model to Erie, a group of community leaders meet with Bill again and toured his center in Pittsburgh.
The vision grew, a leadership team was formed, and funds were raised to complete a feasibility study, outlining what replication in Erie would look like. Convinced the model would work in Erie, just as it has in cities nationwide, the leadership team officially founded the nonprofit organization, the Erie Center for Arts & Technology, and named a Board of Directors in 2017.
In 2019, the first staff member was hired and renovation of the Wayne School Building began. In 2021, the Erie Center for Arts & Technology opened our doors and now offer adult career training and teen arts programs at no cost to Erie County residents, fulfilling a vision 6 years in the making.
ECAT offers two core programs at no cost: adult career training and teen arts programs. Both programs are informed by three core philosophies. It might seem like a strange combination, but offering both programs in our building allows us to assist multiple generations (teens + adults) of Erie families break the cycle of poverty.
Adult Career Training
No cost, industry-driven workforce training in middle wage jobs for unemployed and underemployed adults in Erie County. Importantly, this training is based on a unique combination of full-time coursework, technical skill-building, personal growth development, externship and career placement to create a pathway to job retention and success.
Learn more about the adult career programs.
Teen After-School Arts
Arts-based mentorship offered during out-of-school time, for high school students who are most at risk of dropping out. Programs, which will include photography, ceramics, digital and design arts, are designed to grow 21st century skills and foster a connection to success in high school and beyond.
Learn more about the after-school arts program for teens.