The Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (MLAB) is an artist-run, renovated recreational vehicle that exists as a flexible space open to community members’ proposals for alternative educational and cultural programming.

MLAB is the collaborative effort of the 2007-2008 Social Sculpture class at Syracuse University, comprised of 10 art and architecture students and lead by artist and Director of Community Initiatives in the Visual Arts of Syracuse University, Marion Wilson. Our mission was to transform a used, 1984 Recreational Vehicle Bus into a Mobile Literacy and Arts Bus for use by the Syracuse City School District and the greater Syracuse Community. MLAB serves as a physical manifestation of Syracuse University’s Scholarship in Action initiative, by pairing University resources with community needs in an attempt to address the staggering drop out rates in the Syracuse City School District High Schools. Through the School of Education at Syracuse University, incredible curricula that bridge photography, poetry and literacy currently exist within the public schools-- however due to a crisis of space, the schools don't always have the space or resources to house it. MLAB is this space. The bus serves as a mobile classroom, digital photo lab, gallery space, and community center. As a team, we did it all: demolition, design, and construction.

MLAB is made possible from the generous support of the School of Education at Syracuse University and Entitiative.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Moss LAB at IHAD

UPDATE! This month, Marion Wilson was honored to participate in the I Have A Dream foundations national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The I Have A Dream foundation (IHAD) mission is to provide "long-term support to children and youth living in under-resourced communities to achieve their full potential, by promoting from an early age, values of higher education and career success, with opportunity guaranteed through financial resources, and other services." Their branches are scattered throughout the country, including (but not limited to) Boulder and Denver, Colorado, Los Angeles, CA, Miami, FL, and New York City. IHAD works to provide their student dreamers with long-term support and resources to meet their educational and professional goals.

IHAD was introduced to the MLAB MossLAB project several months ago and began to imagine ways that it could be utilized by their students across the country. As of early this month Marion and IHAD have been working hard to build a curriculum that can be used at schools in over fifteen states. The MLAB MossLab project was presented to the IHAD affiliates at this month’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia, during which Marion introduced MLAB's history and how it will be designed and used in the not so distant future. First, Marion introduced IHAD to our dear subject, Moss. 

We handed out small moss samples to groups of two and had them write an illustration of what they saw.

After finishing writing , they placed their sample on the table and handed their description card to another group who was instructed to find that sample based on the descriptive illustration they had been handed. 

The results were amazing.  Many of the groups were able to find their match and the descriptive writing exhibited both poetic musings and clinical observation. It was easy to see how this simple exercise increased our sensitivity to the subject and ways of looking closely. Many were inspired enough to start drawing the samples and a few even spent our break looking for moss outside the conference hall that day. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Have A Dream for MLAB

The "I Have A Dream" Foundation, founded in 1986 by Eugene M. Lang, provides children with the opportunity to further their education by earning a college degree, enabling them to fully capitalize on all of their potential. Mr. Lang embodied the foundation with the mission to "provide long-term support to children and youth living in under-resourced communities to achieve their full potential by promoting, from an early age, values of higher education and career success, with opportunity guaranteed through financial resources and other services." The foundation works toward the long term goal of increasing college matriculation rates all across the country; additionally, through the development of a new, ambitious plan, the "I Have A Dream" Foundation is aiming to double the number of dreamers aiming for a college degree. The impact of the Foundation since its cultivation has reached over 15,000 students across 28 states, Washington D.C., and New Zealand. The Foundation commits to raising the bar and encouraging any and all children to pursue their dream of higher education.

With affiliates in twelve U.S. states, from California to New York, MLAB's partnership with the "I Have a Dream" Foundation makes a cross-country tour possible. This is a tremendous opportunity for us, and we are so excited for all that is on the horizon. Stay tuned for more information as we learn more about what this means for us!

For more information on the foundation please visit their website:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Want to Teach the Whole World to Draw: Maine--> Miami--->Oregon

“I Want to Teach the Whole World to Draw….moss.”

I Want to Teach the Whole World to Draw is a mobile drawing project created by artist, Marion Wilson, using a renovated RV (known as MLAB) as her drawing studio and botany lab starting at Art Basel, Miami 2016 and ending in Portland, Oregon. The Mobile Literacy Art Bus (MLAB) will be re-fashioned as a combined moss lab/drawing studio/looking station as it travels from site to site creating an artistic archive and knowledge bank of native moss. This project celebrates attentiveness to place, smallness, and indigenous ways knowing which Wilson believes is both ecological and spiritual; scientific and artistic.

The Stops and what they tell us:
MLAB/MossLab will follow an exquisite and diverse moss trail that Dr. Robin Kimmerer, expert bryologist, and professor at SUNY-ESF has helped to determine. As the local and native moss species are collected and archived Wilson and participants will use microscopes to draw in three scales; real size, dissection and cellular. At each stop Wilson will hold public drawing sessions that include an innovative art lesson. Drawings created and collected will then be sent to a 3-d printer to create a sculptural archive, which Wilson views as a contemporary technological version of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka glass models. 

I Want to Teach the Whole World to Draw is founded on the belief and conviction that arts and arts education should be distributed equally and not allocated according to race and class as currently displayed in the American school system. MLAB will work in partnership with the National Headquarters of the I Have a Dream Foundation whose mission "Is for all children to have an opportunity to earn a college degree and fully capitalize on their talents, aspirations, and dreams of fulfilling careers and productive global citizenship.”
MLAB/MossLab functions as mobile signage that points directly to the discrepancy of access by traveling to the poorest districts along the route – all the way MLAB will provide a rich and interdisciplinary arts curriculum that links art and design to science and technology.

MLAB to Moss/Lab
In 2008, with a group of nine student collaborators from Syracuse University, Wilson purchased, re-designed and renovated a 1984 American Eagle RV. The RV interior was gutted and re-furbished with Stickley scrap wood, porcelain coated steel walls, and cushions that serve as dual purpose drawing boards. MLAB travelled locally in CNY for three years providing art and creative writing enrichment to 13 local schools; was curated as an Open Institute for participatory art at Stefan Stoyanov gallery in NYC; and was a collecting site for Mel Chin's Fundred Dollar Bill project. 

Why Moss and Drawing?
The transformation of MLAB to a botany lab and drawing studio, specifically for the artistic study of bryophytes is significant environmentally, scientifically and metaphorically. Wilson links art, science and technology and uses science to talk about human activities. Mosses are the first form of plant life; they live in the boundary layer of the Earth and in microenvironments. As non-vascular plants they teach us about hydration, reproduction, photosynthesis. Equally important; moss is about looking. Wilson uses the study of moss to increase our ability to see. The study and observation of moss is the perfect compliment to observational drawing and to drawing exercises that Wilson has used in many public formats to increase individual and public perception. Studying moss is about paying attention to what is small, omnipresent and profoundly overlooked.

Drawing is a universal language. Drawing was the first language humans used to communicate and it is still used widely as a form of communication despite and within new technologies. Drawing is a language used across disciplines to understand form in space - including art and design, the sciences through classification, engineering, mathematics (longitude and latitude in the form of a line) and the humanities (timelines and poetry). Drawing increases our ability to see and enlarges our perceptions of the universe.

Creating the Archive:
In 2010 Wilson inherited the entire painting collection of art slides from Syracuse University’s slide library (approximately 10,000 slides). Since that time through painting and drawing she has been recycling the artifacts of the collection (glass, slide dividers, photographic images) with her own images of post-industrial landscapes  and indigenous or endangered plants.

This project emphasizes a STE(A)M approach to learning -  in that art operates at the intersection of science, technology and math and includes classification, divergent thinking skills, communicating ideas and problem solving – through drawing and sketching; model making, species collecting and identification.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MLAB from Maine to Miami

Hi everyone!

It's been awhile and we have some very exciting news to share. The Mobile Literacy Arts Bus is preparing to go back on the road and travel further than ever before.

We have been hard at work this past year planning for the next generation of  MLAB. So, here's the plan: we will be on tour from coastal rocky Maine to sandy Miami beginning in Summer of 2015. We will be partnering with local schools, galleries and museums along the way to offer communities free interdisciplinary art and ecology curriculum. MLAB’s Maine to Miami tour will serve as a working arts studio, laboratory, and a mobile classroom that will explore science, specifically site specific, indigenous plant life, alongside a serious study of life drawing and painting practices.

The tour is inspired by the work of MLAB's co-founder; artist Marion Wilson. Marion's artistic practice seeks to create bridges between art, ecology, neighborhood, and curriculum. Her work is marked by a delicate scientific inquiry, one that has led her on a several year long study of New York's native plant life which she has ingeniously represented through miniature sculptures, paintings, and drawings. MLAB's Maine to Miami is an effort to promote free arts education and catalyze collaborations and learning spaces for artists and high-need communities.  For more on Marion's work please visit

We will be using this blog to keep you updated on the fundraiser and the shape of our tour map. We will be writing to introduce you to partners and cities that we will be working with along the way.

Late Night for MLAB