“There aren’t too many people walking this earth that could get away with calling themselves Creative Provocateurs, but Michael Sturtz is undoubtedly one of them. The list of achievements he has racked up over the past 25-odd years is beyond impressive, as these have been achieved in the unbroken ground beyond the known frontier of innovation across a number of fields of endeavor, and artistic disciplines.” – Tuia Innovation, Wellington, NZ
Michael Sturtz is an internationally acclaimed designer, innovator, educator, sculptor, and founder of The Crucible, the nation’s largest non-profit industrial arts education facility. Determined to take on “impossible challenges,” he has spent a lifetime deconstructing and reinventing transformative approaches to problem solving, ideation, and education. As a popular speaker, consultant, and creative provocateur, Michael ignites revolutions in thought, organizational development, and creative empowerment across the globe.
Michael’s upbringing offered a convergence of opportunities and challenges that inspired his life’s passion for creative transformation. He was groomed for a career in orthopedic surgery and spent his early years dissecting road-kill and observing medical procedures with his father. Fascinated by the elegance and intricacies of how systems work, he also enjoyed rebuilding cars in his stepfather’s auto body shop and observing his mother’s work as a revolutionary psychotherapist. He earned his BFA from Alfred University and MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and found early success as a sculptor, fabricator, and product designer.
In 1999, Michael set out to reinvent arts education. With a grant for just $1,750, he founded The Crucible, an industrial arts school in the San Francisco Bay Area that encourages truly non-competitive learning. The Crucible flourished under Michael’s leadership to become the nation’s largest nonprofit industrial arts education facility with an annual budget of three million dollars. Michael designed the facilities and programs that today house 90 faculty and over 8,000 students annually. His ability to approach creative challenges with tenacity and innovation made Michael a leader in the worlds of art and theater, opening new frontiers for cross-disciplinary collaboration.
As founder and executive director of The Crucible, Michael revealed his natural brilliance and flair for marketing and development outreach. He designed, directed, and produced a series of promotional theatrical events that united industrial arts processes with stagecraft and all manner of performing arts. His Fire Arts Festivals, Fire Operas, and Fire Ballets defined a new genre of entertainment in the Bay Area, attracting diverse audiences from around the country. Meanwhile, a Crucible side project, “Die Moto”—the world’s first biodiesel land speed motorcycle—set a world land speed record, raised awareness for alternative fuels, and gained international recognition for the school.
After twelve years at the helm, Michael retired from The Crucible to seek out new creative challenges at Stanford University. In 2012, he accepted a lecturer appointment with the Mechanical Engineering Design Group, and began teaching at the d.school, an institute within Stanford that promotes design thinking, ideation, and radical collaboration. There, Michael spearheaded a new artistic genre of live performance as director of the ReDesigning Theater Project. This innovative program aimed to reinvent theater for the next generation. Michael and his students applied design thinking to incorporate technology and social media into immersive theatrical experiences. While at d.school, he joined the stage of TedX Stanford’s “Above and Beyond” series, encouraging audience members to discover their own creative voice—and never take no for an answer when chasing their dreams.
In 2014, Michael founded Stanford’s Creative Ignition Lab at Autodesk in San Francisco. This new lab explored the potential for visual, experiential, and embodied thinking to unlock the future of making and learning. For two and a half years, Michael led the lab in its mission to pioneer new ways to incorporate the tools of invention and production into creative processes. While at Autodesk, Michael joined the Applied Research & Innovation team at Pier 9, where he helped innovate new ways to utilize machine learning within robotic welding.
In 2017 and 2018, Michael led the prototyping lab at Google X, where uncomfortably ambitious, potentially world-changing new ideas are transformed into early-stage proof-of-concept prototypes. There, he led his own moonshot investigation and collaborated to pioneer the future of automated manufacturing.
Today, Michael finds himself at the center of two new and auspicious ventures. In 2019, he was tapped as lead consultant to Gracefield Innovation Quarter, a high-energy research and development district near Wellington, New Zealand. There, he hopes to lend his expertise to the country’s effort to lead worldwide innovation in environmentally restorative technology. More recently, he became an Edmund Hillary Fellow, joining world-class entrepreneurs and investors in New Zealand who are working to catalyze positive change in the world.
Michael continues to be an in-demand speaker, educator, and creative provocateur, igniting revolutions in thought, organizational development, and creative empowerment across the globe. His distinction as a force for creative transformation has earned him recognition among government and business leaders, community builders, innovators, educators, and artists worldwide.