The Crucible, a nonprofit industrial arts education center in Oakland, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Originally founded by local Bay Area artist Michael Sturtz in 1999, The Crucible serves approximately 5,000 students per year and offers classes in 16 unique fields. Course offerings include blacksmithing, glassblowing, fire dancing, jewelry making, woodworking, and kinetics and electronics.
Students range in age and background. The Crucible Youth Program serves kids aged 8 to 18, offering weekend and after-school classes, as well as camps and field trips. Adults of all ages are also drawn to The Crucible, Sturtz says, and their reasons for taking courses vary widely. Some are seeking professional training while others simply want a hands-on creative outlet.
As the world becomes more digital, Sturtz has seen an increase in the number of tech professionals coming to classes. He attributes this to people’s innate desire to work with their hands. “I think as humans that we’re really more attune to being physical and making things and getting your hands dirty and getting sweaty … that’s what our background was.”
The Crucible has long advertised itself, fundraised and entertained audiences with its elaborate, fire-themed theatrical performances. The center held its annual Fire Arts Festival from 1999 to 2009 (with no festival in 2001 or 2003), and have staged full-length fire operas, fire ballets and fire-themed fashion shows.
While The Crucible has received offers to franchise and expand nationally and internationally, Sturtz says he wants to remain local. “It’s very much a Bay Area phenomenon, and very much an Oakland-grown orientation.”