Art meets science at The Crucible in Oakland

Caitlin Kelley/Staff

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The Crucible held an open house exhibition called “The Science of Art” on April 12 in Oakland, which raised questions about the relationship between science and art.

Society tends to differentiate science and art as completely separate categories. This binary is relevant in education when budget cuts mean favoring science program funding over that of arts.

The reasoning behind this binary hinges on key differences between the studies: There is the notion that science is founded upon discoveries that are innate in the world. On the other hand, art is created and impossible to concretely define because everyone has his or her own definition of it. Given the practicality of scientific studies, people tend to place its use value higher than art.

Concepts such as mathematical beauty recognize a commonality between these studies, in which the beauty of elegance is the linking factor. Graham Hackett, The Crucible event coordinator, said scientists look at beauty through a different lens than artists do. UC Berkeley even hosted an exhibit, “Art-in-Science: The intersection of image and research,” in February. It presented artwork by scientists and artists from the Berkeley community, in media ranging from digital art to origami, to portray the “artistic face of science.” 

However, The Crucible is not making the argument that science is art but rather that the creation of art requires science. Demonstrations of crafts such as raku, leather-making and etching stress the scientific processes involved in their creation. All of the demonstrations coincide with classes taught at the nonprofit arts education organization.


The Crucible



The first demonstration was situated in the parking lot in front of the premises. Raku is a traditional Japanese technique for making tea bowls. Workers explained the science behind these ceramics. Ceramics are loaded into a kiln, heated to a specific temperature and then removed after cooling down. The ware was removed while hot then placed into a container with combustible materials, sawdust and newspaper. The carbonaceous atmosphere gives metallics and crackles to the glaze.

The Crucible

The home base of The Crucible is an industrial warehouse brimming with crafty installations, such as this train car converted into an office.

The Crucible

The Crucible

The glassblowing demonstration displayed the artistry that goes into hand-making seemingly commonplace items. Workers shaped an ornate vase out of blobs of magma with a rod of stainless steel. At the exhibit, craftsmanship becomes spectacle. Here, we see the initial shaping of the vase and a later addition of glass footing.

The Crucible

The leather working department displays a lobster-inspired helmet by Sam Waller that was used in a fashion show, which The Crucible holds every December.

The Crucible

An art exhibit under the theme of science and art featured work by faculty members and students. It includes a wide variety of media, including mold-making, wood used with metal and even neon.

The Crucible

The electrolytic etching table allowed guests to design their own steel tabs. I took it upon myself to draw a cat pondering in meows. Then I waited about 10 minutes while a worker ran a current through guests’ collective tabs, hyper-oxidizing the metal, which pulled flakes out of etched pieces. I then rubbed off the tar (which is still present in the picture), relishing the value of the creative process with the end result of my new charm.

The Crucible provided a fun, interactive and educational experience. True to its name, The Crucible is a scientifically processed melting pot of artistic endeavors.