Michael Sturtz, a Bay Area native, founded The Crucible in January 1999. After attending college and graduate school on the East Coast, he returned home with plans of opening a local arts studio and school like no other.
“My family is here, my friends were here; there wasn’t a good arts school here for sculpture,” Sturtz said. “I went to School of the Art Institute of Chicago for two years of graduate school, and that experience – paying $36,000 for graduate school and I’m still paying it off – leaves me wondering what I got out of it.”
Sturtz opened The Crucible – a crucible is a vessel used for melting a substance that requires a high degree of heat – to allow community members to teach others important and practical skills. Year round, The Crucible offers classes on the skills used in both manufacturing and in art.
“We cater to the community,” studio manager and instructor Orion Fredericks said. The community helps us grow.”
The Crucible originally rented 6,000 square feet of a warehouse on Murray Street, in Southwest Berkeley. Four months ago, the framing warehouse next door went out of business and moved out. The Crucible moved in, expanding its grounds to 22,000 square feet.
The new space will allow The Crucible to offer more classes with larger enrollments, more intensive classes and room for more equipment, as well as performances.
“This place is becoming more of a community space to use,” Fredericks said.
It opened January 15, 1999 and taught over 300 students in its first year. Staff expects to serve nearly 500 students this year.
“Staff is teaching the people of the community skills that the industry really needs,” Fredericks said.
The city of Berkeley also recently gave The Crucible $42,000 to fund staff salaries and programming. Of that money, $10,000 went to fund summer programs and resources at The Crucible’s youth arts program. It also is offering an accredited class in foundry for the UC Berkeley Extension summer program.
As Crucible staff members note, industry has removed the community aspect from South Berkeley.
The Crucible is trying to give back by linking industry to the community.
“Arts, industry and community; that’s part of our mission statement,” Fredericks said.
“We bring that all together in this place, which is The Crucible – the mixing pot of those aspects. And we then turn around and offer it to the community.”