The Crucible: Oakland’s Inspiring Art School
Anchored in West Oakland, The Crucible is a nonprofit industrial arts school that is known to specialize in welding, glass blowing, woodworking, and blacksmithing classes. First established in Berkeley in 1999, The Crucible moved to its current location 4 years later to Oakland in 2003, nearly 20 years ago.
Within the arts community and beyond, many of us know of The Crucible. Either we have taken a class there or know of someone else who has. I know a few friends who have taught there and even have a friend who met her husband there!
The space is massive – measuring beyond 56,000 square feet, it has two stories and takes up nearly half of a city block. Known my most by their metal work and glassblowing classes, they have the most varied schedule of classes I’ve seen in a maker space.
I don’t know why I was so surprised by this but as I was walking around I kept being caught off guard by the sheer amount of classes offered. They offer over 19 different disciplines with multiple class options: including leather working and ceramics!
Even tho I’m an art kid who has lived in the Bay Area for longer than The Crucible has been around, I hadn’t ever set foot inside until recently. I took a tour of the space and learned some lesser-known facts about the non-profit which made me fall even more in love with the maker space.
Here are some additional facts you may not have known about this amazing space:
They have a full Bike Shop:
I’ve always known that The Crucible was a center for Industrial Arts but I was surprised to see a massive Bike Shop in the back of the space. “The Bike Shop is our most community driver department, hosting regular free events for our West Oakland neighbors on bike repair and bike education,” says Cathay Niland, Acting Director of Marketing and Ecommerce at The Crucible.
They have scholarships!
I feel so silly that I never looked into this when I wasn’t able to pay for a class. Their scholarships help break down the barrier to learning. As a non-profit, their values are that all people should have access to learning. They make sure to prioritize scholarships to those who need it most and also encourage their neighbors in West Oakland to take a class if they feel inspired to do so.
They once made the Key to The City of Oakland.
I was delighted to see a case filled with materials used when they created a forged Key to Oakland. Commissioned by The Office of the Mayor, City of Oakland in 2015: this ceremonial key was presented to dignitaries from the Mayor of Oakland.
You do not have to commit to a lengthy class to get started
They have 3-hour tasters regularly where you can get an idea of a type of art without going too deep into it. For instance, in the Machining class, you learn how to make your own clamp. This type of project allows you to use more than one tool within the studio space and also learn multiple basic fundamentals which could spark your curiosity to learn more.
They have field trips!
Covid has paused this program for a bit – but it’s coming back! However, it’s potentially my favorite thing about The Crucible. The commitment to engaging with the community in and outside of their own shop walls. Folks will take youth interested in industrial arts on field trips to other maker spaces. It gives them a real-world look at what life is like for an artist.
You can rent space there!
Most of the facilities faculty are working artists and will use the space in their free time. But there are so others who rent the space.
You can rent studios for your own projects but you won’t automatically have access to the studio. There is another type of program called CREATE. This program allows folks to access approved studios and work within special program hours. Niland told us a bit more about what’s coming up for the program.
“The CREATE program is still recovering after pandemic challenges, We currently have CREATE members in the foundry, and will be expanding the program in the coming months to include departments like Woodworking and Ceramics,” she noted.
What’s happening next at The Crucible?
I’ve outlined a few programs above which are in the works like expanding the CREATE program, regular Bike Shop events (like the one on December 11th), and bringing back field trips.
But also, they have their yearly craft show coming up in December which is not to be missed. “GIFTY 2022: A Holiday Celebration of Local Creative Culture”. If you’re a member, you get special access to the event on Friday. The general public is welcome to attend both Saturday and Sunday to shop artisan goodies from local makers and the Crucible faculty.
My favorite part is their community outreach at The Crucible.
Walking around the facility with Niles, she told me of multiple programs which help The Crucible connect and give back to West Oakland and beyond.
They have numerous programs geared especially toward youth within the community. One such program is The Fuego Program. This program specifically works with young artists looking to work on their artistic and leadership skills.
“Our Fuego Leaders design, create, and fabricate community and public art—from welded bike bridges to community chicken coops. We make sure Oakland is built by Oakland.”
Where to find The Crucible online & ways to volunteer:
The Crucible is a great place to volunteer as a maker or as someone who wants to support their community. If you are interested in volunteering, email email@example.com.