Wonderland of Creativity Erupts in Oakland - NBC Bay Area

Wonderland of Creativity Erupts in Oakland

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    Wonderland of Creativity Erupts in Oakland
    Josh Keppel
    Fire Vortex operators James Reischutz (left) and Ballistic Bob hold long polls with liquid propane squirting out to try to create a fire tornado with the help of the fans and the heat of the fire.

    I’ve been hearing about the Fire Arts Festival for several years now and I’ve always wanted to go.

    This year was my year to finally attend and I was blown away (not literally, although, there was enough fire to scorch an entire village) by the amazing creativity in welding and pyrotechnics at the event.

    The Fire Arts Festival is an annual outdoor evening art festival held in Oakland that’s been taking place over the past decade.

    It’s a fundraiser benefiting art education programs for youth and adults, based on a celebration of creativity through fire and light.  The event was created and managed by The Crucible, a non-profit organization.

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    “The Crucible is a non-profit educational facility that fosters a collaboration of Arts, Industry and Community," the organization says on its website. "Through training in the fine and industrial arts, The Crucible promotes creative expression, reuse of materials and innovative design while serving as an accessible arts venue for the general public.”

    The event is by far the largest collection of outdoor fire sculptures in the west coast with the possible exception of Burning Man.

    This year the event was held July 15 through July 18, of which I attended the final night.

    The anticipation was building as I drove to the event, however, I was surprised by the real magnitude of what was in store once I began reading electronic signs along the highway warning drivers about a “controlled burn.”

    This warning of a “controlled burn” really hit me as we approached the West Grand exit off 880.

    I could see what could have been easily mistaken for a battlefield or some sort of large industrial park fire.

    Viewing from over the edge of the freeway overpass blasts of fire in many sizes shot from the ground and burst from what appeared to be out of thin air.

    As I came closer I began to realize it was in fact an array of large and small fire sculptures, fire dancers and fire breathing acts across a large open space.

    The organizers did an amazing job creating a safe and incredibly creative environment for the masses.

    There was something supplied for everyone, with dozens of performances, interactive installations, innovative vendors, a VIP tent with a private dinner and an art auction.

    The auction was a chance to not only experience the amazing creations and pyrotechnics, but an opportunity to take home a piece of art created by one of the many talented artist working at the event.

    As you walked around what was only a parking lot, you stepped into wonderland of creativity, with installations ranging from metal fire gardens, to thirty-foot human-shaped sculptures engulfed in fire, to a fire spitting art car shaped as a snail, to a mind-blowing fire-breathing pendulum flying through the air. The latter being one of the most impressive and creative fire sculptures I’ve ever seen.

    Another truly incredible installation was a roughly five-foot wide circular platform containing a series of motion sensors, which remotely controlled a group of fire-spitting “poofers” that were arranged in a large circle along a parameter fence about 40 feet away from the platform.

    A “conductor” standing on the platform would dance around moving his arms over each of the motion sensors, setting off a sequence of explosions.

    The result was a spectacular show of fire with the finesse of a professional orchestra. It was an absolutely stunning experience.

    As you can see from this article, I was blown away, figuratively that is.  I’d like to thank The Crucible and all the talented artists who put on this spectacular event.

    I highly recommend you plan to attend their next event and check out their organization.