Put your hand in the fire at The Crucible
1. a container in which metals or other substances may be melted
2. a place or occasion of severe test or trial
3. a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new
When you find yourself greeted by the all-caps metal signage at the entryway of The Crucible’s industrial arts hub in Oakland, you’re entering a world of DIY mastery.
Here, you can craft to the max where 56,000 square feet is dedicated to innovation and education.
An easy 5-minute walk down 7th Street from West Oakland Station, the spacious complex houses cutting-edge art, building, welding and dance facilities, to name just a few.
Unconventional and celebrated for being an anomaly across the country, the 16-year-old educational arts mecca hosts classes every night of the week. These aren’t standard classes, either.
You know you’re in the Bay Area when a class schedule seems to cater to Burning Man endeavors. We’re talking fire dancing, neon sign making, glass blowing and kinetic sculpture making.
“Every student has their own station and machinery for total hands-on learning,” says Executive Director David Miller. Sign up for a class and you’ll experience a one-to-five teacher-student ratio.
A nonprofit, The Crucible is manned by 12 full-time staff, 120 instructors and hundreds of volunteers. From stand-alone 3-hour “Taster” classes to weeklong courses and 10-week intensives, choose your own adventure like the 5,000 students that walk through the art-lined halls each year. Here, adults and kids alike get their hands dirty and their feet wet in something new.
“Just like sitting at a campfire where you can’t help but stare at a fire, for us fire draws people in from the community,” Miller explains of the school’s trademark focus on fire-centric art. “Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!”
Still not sure what you’re getting into? Keep an eye on The Crucible’s calendar; the public is invited to check it all out firsthand during free tours offered on occasional Fridays. For a larger community party, quarterly open house affairs attract over 500 people.
But let’s face it, not everyone is the next David Smith, naturally gifted with the ability to transmute metal scraps into striking sculptures. What about those lacking confidence in their artistic side?
Miller, himself a jazz musician and art newbie who proudly crafted a candle holder in a welding class, reassures The Crucible isn’t just for artists.
“It’s for people who want to explore creativity,” he begins. “It’s fun to get out of your comfort zone; you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re able to do in just a few hours.”