Michael Sturtz is a sculptor, teacher, designer and facilitator of creative thinking, known for his innovative creativity and ability to make challenging artwork and ideas possible. Michael grew up tinkering with machines and from a very young age could be found rebuilding cars in his stepfather’s auto body shop. Always fascinated with the elegance and intricacies of how things worked, he’d spend hot summer afternoons dissecting road kill and later observe his father, an orthopedic surgeon, in the operating room. As a result, he developed a fascination for the hidden mechanics of everyday forms, and this had a major influence over his learning style, which is highly visual and kinesthetic.
Michael found early success as a sculptor, architectural metal worker, and product designer, earning his BFA from Alfred University School of Art and Design and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He also studied stone carving at Studio de Sem Ghelardini, in Pietrasanta, Italy. Michael’s sculpture addresses both concept and form through intriguing kinetic machines and strong material contrasts that include creative mixtures of stone, cast and fabricated metals, glass, kinetics, light, fire, liquid and video. Often blending mechanical and biological forms, his sculptures are hybrids of impossible pairings and momentous environments coming together to radiate destructive and reconstructive energy. Michael’s sculptural works are exhibited extensively in collections throughout the US, Italy and England.
Soon, Michael’s interests expanded from constructing individual works of art to building a collaborative community of artists, students and audiences. He discovered he had a desire to reinvent learning, making it a more visual and tactile experience. In 1999, he founded The Crucible, a regional art center where industrial arts are taught in a truly creative and noncompetitive learning environment. During his 12 years as Executive Director, Michael nurtured what began as an idea and a $1,750 seed grant into the largest nonprofit industrial arts educational facility in the nation- leading a staff and faculty of 100+ in the build-out of a 56,000 square foot industrial arts facility where over 8,000 students would attend every year, producing and directing large-scale theatrical events and festivals welcoming 20,000 visitors per year, and managing multiple, simultaneous programs including adult art education, youth programs, community outreach, corporate workshops, and open house events.
Arts centers from China to Los Angeles, and from New Zealand to Turkey were inspired by the organization’s success and invited Michael to their facilities to consult on how to emulate “The Crucible Model”, which includes a thriving and service-oriented youth program, where more than 2000 young people benefit from art education programs each year.
During his tenure as The Crucible’s Executive Director, Michael developed a reputation for innovative projects, from his daring, fiery stunts to his current world record attempt on the first bio-diesel land speed motorcycle, which he built at The Crucible with his team, Die-Moto. As a producer/director, he forged an unlikely yet incredibly successful alliance between the classical and industrial arts, in The Crucible’s Fire Operas, Fire Ballets and Fire Arts Festivals. Under Michael’s direction these Bay Area-wide collaborations earned The Crucible a reputation as the “go-to” venue for spectacular, cutting-edge new works marrying artistic excellence with innovation.
After twelve years to the day at the helm, Michael retired from The Crucible to seek out new creative challenges, and found them at Stanford. In 2012, Michael accepted a teaching appointment in the Mechanical Engineering Design Group to teach at Stanford’s d.school, where he spearheaded and then directed the ReDesigning Theater project for two years. Then Michael became the Executive Director of The Stanford Creative Ignition Lab @ Autodesk. This lab’s mission is to explore the potential of visual, experiential, and embodied thinking to advance the future of learning, creativity, design, and making. The CI Lab aimed to pioneer new ways to more purposefully bring the tools of invention and production seamlessly into creative processes. In early 2017, Michael was invited to lead the prototyping lab at X (formerly Google X), which is the moonshot factory where uncomfortably ambitious, potentially world-changing new ideas are developed.
In addition to his work at X, Michael does consulting for organizational development. Focusing on an international audience, he brings his inspiring leadership and perspective on arts education to groups in places like Costa Rica, China, Panama, Turkey, sparking creativity and design thinking around the world. Throughout his multifarious career Michael has relished the “impossible” challenges, believing that determination and creativity, guided by informed design, are the essential ingredients to make dreams into reality.
In addition to his work at Stanford, Michael does consulting for organizational development. Focusing on an international audience, he brings his inspiring perspective on arts education to groups in places like Costa Rica, New Zealand, Panama, Turkey, and China, sparking creativity and design thinking around the world.
Empowerment through inclusive and supportive alternative education has underscored the narrative of Michael’s career. He continues to create opportunities for all types of learners to harness their brilliance, maximizing their potential and enabling them to contribute at the highest level.