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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bus Demolition

We made a good amount of progress on the demolition of the RV's interior today, but there is still a decent amount of work left to be done. Vince and I are planning to continue demo work for a couple hours starting at around 10am tomorrow (Saturday). On Sunday, Marion and Dave will be there from 10-2 to do more of the same. Please give Vince or me a call if you are able to help out on either day. Ideally, we will have the bus completely gutted and detailed drawings completed by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

For Thursday Sept 27

Please remember to bring last week's designs.
We need to edit Jessica's MTVU youth grant application.
Mary Jane Jacob's will meet with our group on Tuesday, October 30th. Can people meet here at 3 to introduce her to our project.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Week 4: David A. Harris, Process Analyst.

Last Week, David A. Harris, Process Analyst, attended our class to lend us some perspective. In addition to his expertise in processes, Mr. Harris also has a passion for design and remodeling vehicles. We're enthusiastic to have Mr. Harris on our team!

These are the notes he took during our discussion and design pitches:

September 20, 2007
Vincent, Marco, Julia, Roslyn, Sam, Nicolette, Yun, Jessica, Zach, Marion, and David

Class Notes
10/25 PR event for MLAB. Valesky and Pomco will be attending? Need platform and stairs built next to RV.

Main concepts and discussion points from design presentations

• Miss White: notion of a substitute teacher coming to the school. Provides a way to personalize or anthropomorphize the RV.
• Use the walls as functional space.
• Create flexibility…provide options.
• Block off drivers area.
• Keep as much of the space as open as possible.
• Create transformable surfaces… multi-use…multi-functional
• Possibility of using sliding gallery wall surfaces to cover shelving.
• Think about how to engage the space, change the learning culture, change how the student’s are taught, change the culture of respect, change the creative culture, and change the community.
• Do something before you enter the space (e.g. shoes off, write a message, project a message, etc.)
• RV as extension of the school building.
• Use of closed/secure modular storage. Keep contents from moving around when RV is being driven.

Design concerns
• Need to better understand classroom programming.
• Concern about windows and lighting within RV. Need to block out light for computer use and projection.
• Concern about over programming the RV
• Concern about handicap/wheelchair accessibility.
• Access/egress when used as gallery space.

Focus Group Discussion
Focus group will be held Thursday, September 27th. (3:00 p.m.)
The agenda might look something like this:
• Description of MLAB project
• Walk through the RV as-is so participants get a feel for the space.
• Focus group discussion around class programming and requirements gathering.
• Involve participants in postcard/RV design.
• Class designs with participants

Monday, September 24, 2007

Week 3 and 4: Images

Artist Frank Olive discusses his work as we talk about collaboration and interaction.

Nicolette, Julia, and Arjan (center, from left to right respectively) are seen at Nottingham High School-- a potential first sight for the M-Lab!

First views at our first sketches of design and concept for the M-Lab!

Yun-Pei (left) and Roslyn's (right) visions.

How Zach (top) and Nicolette (bottom) see M-Lab.

Monday, September 17, 2007

postcard . . . round 2

made some small changes and added more text explaining who we are and what we're doing. still need to add in our names somewhere. any ideas?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

quick preview of postcard!!

so here's my first "draft" for the postcard . . . feedback needed!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week 2: Teaching to Transgress

Week Two Reading: Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks ( yup, no caps in that name! )

Often college reading assignments can be a bit dull but thats not the case in SCU 300. Here we only get the best: bell hooks. bell hooks had me marking orange highlighter all over this campus copy packet and adding specially cut post-it notes to emphasize the epitome.

So whats the main point?

* teachers should take a personal interest in their students and be excited about what they're bringing to the class. say maybe by rolling up to that school in a bus.
* education should not be: "memorizing information and regurgitating it...gaining knowledge that could be deposited, stored and used at a later date..."
* students should feel that their voice is important, that their contribution is equally valued and that they have a right to challenge the norms.

Some of these points you and I may take for granted. So right now I want you to think of your best educational experience. Your favorite teacher, class or chemistry lab accident. I'm willing to bet that these simple values were part of that experience. We of M-Lab are here to help build those moments... in the form of an RV.

With local high schools lacking the space and in some cases the ability to afford up-to-date technology, our RV has a purpose. We want to create an environment that makes learning more personal and certainly unique. We envision M-Lab to be an art gallery, a library, a teaching center, a space for creativity on wheels. It may not look like this just yet but no worries. We've got a plan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Week 2: Images

The M-LAB Team in front of the RV!

Elevation drawings. Now empty, soon to be plans for the future!

Melanie Cohn, catalogist, of the New Museum of Contemporary Art and
Independent Curator helps us hit the ground running by sharing expertise and experience in Community Art with us.

The M-LAB team listening intently to Melanie's wise words.

Vince and Zach, two fifth year Architecture students, with the schematics of the RV.

Week 2: Reflections- Jessica Posner

The past two weeks have been filled with much excitement and even more work. Thus far, we have gutted (with much help to Dave Clayton) the interior of the RV, developed architectural schematics for use in our future design and execution, gotten this blog going, read some enlightening articles, and recieved much needed and appreciated insight from experts. This week, Melanie Cohn of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York lent her expertise in community art to us by sharing some of her personal experiences and the work of other collaborative artists. Melanie also provided us some excellent advice on publicity, collaboration, and community art. In addition, we met with one of our Technical Advisors, Ron DeRutte, for the first time.

Over the past week, in addition to getting our publicity started, we've been developing scale models of the RV-- of both the architectural and sculptural sort. Sam addresses this in depth in her post. Stay tuned for images and discussion of the models in Week 3!

Personally, I've been pretty involved in getting blog set up-- and I'm very excited that now other members of the team will be able to update the blog from their own, personal accounts. Also, I invite anyone else that is interested in our project and process to participate through comments-- we really appreciate any and all feedback! And though we've gotten quite alot done in the past weeks, we've still got plenty mountains to move and balls to get rolling-- and I can't wait to get started.

-Jessica Posner

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Week 2: Reflections- Sam Harmon

Thursday September 6, 2007

We broke into 3 differnt groups for model making today. Three different approaches and actualities result form this break up. One group is to make a model out of an atypical model making material, and the other two are approaching model making in a more traditional manner-- using architectural methods to make a to scale model of the RV out of plastics and paper. Each group is mixed with students from different disciplines-- and with these last two classes it has become very apparent that the sculptors can do the job of architects and the architects can do the jobs of sculptors. IE, check out my drawing of the RV, and check out the ideas for models from Julia and Nicolette.

-Sam Harmon

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Week 1: Images

Exterior view of RV, future home of M-LAB.

Interior: Future sight of classroom, gallery, and community space.

Our leader, Marion Wilson.

Zach and other Architecture and Sculpture students draw schematics.

We enter the RV together for the first time.

The clean up crew.

Roslyn moves an armful of junk to the dumpster as Jessica and Yun-Pei return for more.

Rosyln and Julia work inside the future home of M-Lab.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

M-Lab Course Reading List

LOT-EK Mobile Dwelling Unit. Christopher Scroates. Distributed Art Publishers 2003.

Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Grant H. Kester. University of California Press, 2003

Dialogues in Public Art. Tom Finkelpearl. MIT Press, 2001.

One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. Miwon Kwan. MIT Press, 2004.

The Interventionists Users Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life. Mass MoCA Publications, 2004.

Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. Suzanne Lacy.

The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. Lucy Lippard.

Culture in Action: A Public Art Program of Sculpture in Chicago. Michael Brenson (editor), Eva M. Olsen (Editor), Mary Jane Jacob (Editor), Sculpture Organization (Chicago)

Understanding Installations: From Duchamp to Holzer. Mark Rosenthal. Prestel, 2003.

M-Lab Course Syllabus

M-LAB/Social Sculpture
Instructor: Marion Wilson
Thursday 1:00-6pm

“My objects are to be seen as stimulants for the transformation of the idea of sculpture... or of art in general. They should provoke thoughts about what sculpture can be and how the concept of sculpting can be extended to the invisible materials used by everyone.

THINKING FORMS--how we mold our thoughts or
SPOKEN FORMS--how we shape our thoughts into words or
SOCIAL SCULPTURE--how we mold and shape the world in which we live:

That is why the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished, processes continue in most of them: chemical reactions, fermentations, color changes, decay, drying up. Everything is in a state of change.”
(Joseph Beuys’ Theory of Social Sculpture)

“While it is common for a work of art to provoke dialogue among viewers, this typically occurs n response to the finished object. In these project on the other hand, conversation becomes an integral part o the work itself .” (Grant Kester in Conversation Pieces, Community & Communication in Modern Art)

Objective: To Re-design and re-build the interior of a used Recreational Vehicle (RV) into a
the Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (M-LAB) as a work of public art.

Course Description:
This is a one-time course whereby students will work as a collaborative design team to completely re-furbish an RV as a public sculpture/design project. They will be introduced to all aspects of creating a large scale interactive public art work including: proposing, gaining approval, community interaction, fund-raising, designing, re-fabricating, programming and marketing of a used 30’ RV into a Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (M-LAB). M-LAB is a recent exciting initiative of CVPA’s participation in the Partnership for Better Education between the Syracuse City School District and Syracuse University.

Through written critical texts on arts in the social realm, brainstorming with community groups to discuss issues of accessibility and programming, and hands on design and fabrication this course will be a practical seminar on aspects of public sculpture.

Class Goals and Learning Outcomes:
Although typically difficult to measure, the major goal of the course has a specific outcome in the complete refurbishing of the RV into a workable mobile literacy arts lab. Auxiliary outcomes and goals are as follows:
1. Gain knowledge of public art in all its historical variations; from “plop” to site specificity to interactivity, dialog and community
2. development of a collaborative design team where each working member is equal
3. develop critical abilities, including the ability to ask key questions and prioritize
4. increase your technical and material knowledge
5. expand your vocabulary of the formal elements of three dimensional design including form, function, space, volume, surface, skin.
6. develop/expand your creative process, including the ability to brainstorm, work through your ideas, use a sketchbook/journal and working with multiple problem-solving solutions.
7. understand the context in which you are creating including art historical, social, political and personal
8. work through all of the design phases
9. work with a client and a focus group

Projected Schedule:
Week 1
Team Building/Creation of Design Team
Distribute sketchbooks, supply list, reader, syllabus
MLAB Background
Introduction to Collaborative art projects
Tour of RV
Measure RV
Wood shop training
*Homework: set of drawings of RV
Reading Assignment: Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks; and Conversation Pieces, Introduction, Grant Kester; One Place After Another, Miwon Kwon, pgs 60-85, compare Richard Serra and John Ahearn

Week 2
Design Team Meeting
Review readings/Present Drawings
Guests: Frank Olive, Warehouse art gallery and artist
Melanie Cohn, New Museum of Contemporary Art
Woodshop training continued
Build model
Reading Assignment: Dialogues in Public Art by Tom Finkelpearl, Rick Lowe Project Row House
Contact focus group members

Week 3:
Design Team Meeting
Finish Model
Introduction to design types
Reading Assignment:

Week 4
Design Team Meeting
Focus Group
Design Drawings
Reading Assingment:

Week 5
Design Team Meeting
Present Design to Ron DeRutte and Steve Ginsburg to consult technical issues, devise plan for Work
Reading Assignment:

Week 6
Design Team Meeting
Review materials
Supply list
Work plan
Reading Assingment:

Week 7
Design Team Meeting
Reading Assignment:

Week 8
Design Team Meeting
Reading Assignment:

Week 9
Design Team Meeting
Press Unveiling/Senator Valesky and POMCO
Tour for donors

Weeks 10-12
Design Team Meeting
Program Vehicle

Maximum 10 students; Permission Required from Instructor
-3-5 sculpture students
-2-3 architecture/industrial design students
-2-3 transmedia/film students
-1 Museum Studies, Art Ed or art history

Grading Policy:

As this is a team orientation studio course grading criteria will be based on both the individual and the group as a whole.

Individual grades will be based on the following:

Preparation – Students should have their materials needed for each class and show an ability to complete projects and meet deadlines.

Attendance – Be on Time, Be Awake, Be Alert, and Ready to Work

Attitude - Active Participation in design discussions, project research, and physical labor

Curiosity – students should show and interest in the subject matter and demonstrate that they are actively making discoveries and re-working their ideas. Students should work outside of classtime, actively seek out the professor, technicians and other students to assist in problem solving and re-work projects when appropriate.

Collaboration – students should show a willingness and ability to work as a team.

Graduate Student Grading Policy
This course is open to undergraduate and graduate art, art history and architecture students. While the class will work as equal members of a design team, each student will have requirements specific to their discipline of expertise (ie. Architecture students will help to complete the working drawings).

Graduate students however have an additional assignment expected of them. It is important that the practices of grant-writing, collaboration and public art are mirrored back into the grad students own studio practice. Each graduate student will have the additional responsibility of making an in class presentation of their studio work and complete on outside grant application for their own work. This will be shared and critiqued by the class.

*Week 1
Measure the RV and make a complete but very basic set of precise drawings. 1foot to 1 inch scale to include:
2 long sections
4 exterior elevations
3 short sections (front middle back – community space, gallery, studio)
an electrical plan (do not do)

Put them into the computer, print out and by next week everyone has a complete set of drawings (can be small).

Supply List:
Roll of yellow trace
Pencils – variety
Sketch book (provided)
Chipboard (purchased as a group) 1/16 inch
x-acto knives (purchase your own)
metal tape

RV Wishlist:

We want to purchase a “Class-A type Motorcoach”
Examples models: Winnebago, Fleetwood, Bounder, Pace Arrow, SouthWind, Coachmen,
Airstream, Allegro, Holiday Rambler, Gulfstream.

Length - Approx. 28’ to 35’ feet. (Must be under 40’ feet long and under 26,000 lbs.)
Engine Types – Diesel: Cummins 190hp to 275hp diesel or 5.9 to 6.5 Liter Turbo-Diesel
Gasoline: 454 Chevy 7.4 Liter V-8 engine or equivalent
Fuel type -1st choice: Diesel
2nd choice: Gasoline.
Transmission - Automatic
Mileage – Low, 50,000 to 80,000 (specific concern, condition of the Drivetrain/Transmission)
Year - Mid to late 80s or early 90s model
Generator - 4.0 to 6.5 Kw generator with usage low hours (under 500 hours)
Exterior – shell/windows must be solid and sound condition with a retractable awning. Paint
job/cosmetics not a concern.
Interior – Can be rough/dirty. Other than the driver/passenger seats we are planning on
removing most of the original interior including kitchen appliances, bathroom, etc.
Other – Power steering, Power Brakes, Tires w/Good Tread, Working Heater/AC