Robert Collins, a senior and theater production specialist at the Oakland School for the Arts, embodies everything we love about our Youth Programs at The Crucible. After an impromptu visit to The Crucible’s Open House, Robert stumbled upon a world of welding, crafts, and fire – and has since joined the space as a dedicated member.  In this interview, Robert shares some thoughts about his journey at The Crucible.  In our next interview, we’ll discuss how The Crucible is shaping his plans for the future.

The Crucible: Let’s start with the basics.

Robert Collins: My name is Robert Collins and I’m 18.  I am a 12th grader at Oakland School for the Arts.  I am in the advanced theater production program.

TC: How did you first learn about The Crucible?

RC: I first went to an open house event.  I lived in the neighborhood and when I was walking by, I saw an event and went in.  Welding and grinding and flame working looked exciting and flashy!

TC: What programs have you participated in at The Crucible?

RC: I have participated in ARC Welding, Oxy Welded Sculpture, MIG Welding, Plasma Cutting, Art Bike, Flameworking, Glass Blowing, Neon Glass, Rocket Car, Robots, and Blacksmithing.

TC: What area did you focus on during your summer internship and why?

RC: I focused on Bike & MIG Welding.  I wanted to pursue a goal of theater art and I could apply some industrial practices there.  Bike skills applied to repairing bikes in affordable and accessible ways while raising awareness of welding and arts.  I also focused on repairing bikes and teaching students how to repair their own.

TC: Tell us about your art bike and projects from the summer.

RC: I’ve built three art bikes.  The one I built this year is the double bike.  I started a MIG sign, but it’s a difficult process.  Cutting pieces of metal and forming them into 3-D shapes is challenging because the metal is so thin.

TC: What was a challenge you faced as an intern and how did you overcome it?

RC: Engineering and building was a challenge.  In building a bike with Alberto, we didn’t do precise measurements.  It was also challenging telling kids no and leading them through processing ideas. I had to learn to challenge students to be realistic with their time and projects.

TC: What was your proudest moment as an intern this year?

RC: I was proud when I was able to help a kid with a project without asking Sudhu or Max, the teachers. I was also proud when we finished the Art Bike during class, people complimented the bike at Pedalfest, when I helped a student build a gazelle out of metal in MIG Welding and he was really happy.  He didn’t think he could do it, but once he accomplished it. It felt good!

TC: How did you grow as an artist?

RC: The second time taking Art Bike class, the teachers respected me as a student. I asked a lot of questions and introduced concepts and themes into artwork instead of only colors.

TC: How did you grow as a teacher?

RC: I learned that most kids wouldn’t ask questions. I had to encourage them to ask. I asked kids questions to encourage them to think so that they would ask questions.

TC: What did you gain collaborating with your mentor?

RC: I had a lot of freedom as a student.  He respected me as an assistant, not just a monitor.  I felt empowered by him.  He didn’t put me down if I didn’t know something.  They helped me, but expected more. They were helpful and challenged me.

TC: How will your experience help you in the future?

RC: I am more independent and collaborative and I learned specific skills. Practice and observation will help me be more comfortable and accustomed to a work environment.

TC: If someone was considering participating in the Fuego internship program, but they were unsure, what would you tell them?

RC: I would tell them you would have to be committed and you would have to want to participate.  You’d make a portfolio, take classes to prepare.  If they were afraid to prepare, I’d encourage them to visit to get to know people.  Everyone at The Crucible is kind.  Program staff will help with jobs and experience.