Josh Green (right) and Justin Mazzei (center) brought their friend and associate, Bill Strickland (left), to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for a StoryCorps interview on an October Saturday. StoryCorps visited the Museum after it won the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Bill described growing up in Pittsburgh’s Northside, which was once a culturally robust section enriched by residents’ work in the steel mills. As industry declined, the neighborhood emptied and fell into violent despair.
Josh and Justin asked Bill, a nonprofit executive, which memory he would hold onto for all eternity. Bill humbly replied to Josh’s and Justin’s superlative challenge by describing his favorite memory as marked by the light of Saturday afternoon.
According to Bill, this light is hopeful and gentle, and is strongest near the intersection of dusk and dawn. A similar light momentarily filtered into the Museum conference room while Bill reflected on some of his life’s major moments.
His high school art teacher, Mr. Ross, was enveloped by its aura when Bill first encountered him and his pottery several decades ago. Mr. Ross inspired Bill beyond the bleakness of Northside life by pushing him to manipulate clay with his hands.
He may have felt it when he first piloted a commercial plane over New York City after flight school. He certainly found it when his first daughter was born on a fall day several years ago, and when he stood with Mr. Ross at the inauguration of Bill’s nonprofit organization, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. Today it still inspires Northside young people to build with art.