Michael Sturtz has been an innovative teacher, builder and facilitator for more than 20 years in a variety of fields. His ability to approach any creative challenge with tenacity and innovation has made him a leader in the world of art, design, and theater, opening new frontiers for cross-disciplinary collaboration. From his early years rebuilding cars and dissecting road-kill with his father, a surgeon, Michael has always been fascinated with the elegance and intricacies of how things work. He found early success as a sculptor, fabricator, and product designer and earned his BFA from Alfred University and MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1999 Michael set out to reinvent the idea of arts education, founding an art school that encouraged a truly non-competitive learning environment. The Crucible started with only a conceptual design and a grant for $1,750, but quickly grew under Michael’s leadership to become the largest nonprofit industrial arts education facility in the country. Michael designed the facilities and programs, welcoming 90 faculty and over 8,000 students every year. As part of The Crucible’s marketing and development outreach, Michael designed, directed, and produced stunning theatrical events uniting 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 and attracted audiences from around the country.
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. He then became Executive Director of The Stanford Creative Ignition Lab at Autodesk in San Francisco, California. 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. There he 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), where he led his own moonshot investigation and collaborated to pioneer the future of automated manufacturing.
Today, Michael is an internationally renowned speaker and consultant, 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.
Internationally recognised for his design nous, Michael underscores the importance of balancing technology with user experience. He believes good design puts user experience at the core, a concept equally applicable to buildings and any consumer product. Space dictates behaviour, Michael argues, so designers must consider how people wayfind, enter, and move through buildings as a key component of user experience. With the relentless introduction of technology, Michael shares how to find balance in environments that foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration.
For nearly two decades, Michael has been a leader in the convergence of technology, education, and design. In 1999 he set out to reinvent arts education by founding the nation's largest non-profit industrial arts facility, The Crucible. Next he led Stanford's ReDesigning Theater Project to turn theatre on its head within the world-renowned dSchool, then charted the future of making and learning while leading Stanford’s Creative Ignition Lab at Autodesk in San Francisco. He finally landed at Google X, where he helms the company’s in-house prototyping lab.