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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

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

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