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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Dear all, I got a call today from the friendly people at Cab Fab as a result of the "call for wood" email we wrote and sent out last week. They are a local cabinet making company that said they'd be interested in donating to the cause. They are located on Burnet Ave, and if someone that knows what we have/has an idea of what we need, wanted to take a ride with me down there tomorrow in a truck, we could check it out and get some wood.

their website:

See you tomorrow.

MLAB teammate in the news

There is a wonderful article on Roslyn, "Embracing Art", in the latest Syracuse University Magazine, Fall/Winter 2007. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mrco Camacho says.....

i think that this is a great project to help out with students being
able to express their artistic ablilties, which they really could not
do that well before because they did not have sufficient space to have
this class correctly. with the moblie literacy bus they can do this.

i think that public art is awesome. i think just getting to see a
piece of art without wakling into a museum and it just being in a
public space where everyone can see it is awesome. i also think that
it would be inspired, if i liked the work and saw it out in public i
would want to do an art piece. i was actually planning a little later
in life that i was going to put up a public piece. but thats how i feel

Wood Luck and Mary Jane Jacobs

Zach and I took a run to Stickley today and through the generosity of Andrea Audi (picture will be posted soon) we drove home (to Comart) with a carload filled with wood. Somebody can go back again on Friday for an additional load. My contact at National Grid through their Forestry Department is also offerring us OSB board - do we want that too. I may ask them if they have MDF that we could use behind the wall panels.... what width? But do we want OSB and if so how mcuh?

We also had a great breakfast and conversation with Mary Jane Jacobs. She seems soundly excited about our project. She had a few insightful comments about our representations of the bus that we can discuss on Thursday - she thought it looked a bit like a weapons tank - the way it was represented on the computer drawings which of course was unintentional and we can change. Also she had a wonderful suggestion about the pillows and the container of memory idea and the anthropomorphizing of the bus into Miss M - or whomever. More to follow.

I think an article will appear tomorrow in the Daily Orange and someone from Newhouse is coming on Thursday to class. MORE IMPORTANTLY - please remember that snow is around the corner and we all need to put in the 6 hours between class - so - get the pans, the subfloor, the MTVU grant, the lighting research and the metal projects DONE before Thursday's class.
Also if people are around this weekend we can have our first (of many) charette's.
Class Agenda to follow tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Two comments on the most recent posts. I like the idea of the cushions having some sort of "correct" location although I'm not so sure about laser cutting it into the panel and what you're thinking of on that front Zach. I thought at some point we had mentioned the cushions being different colors? And possibly these different colors could correspond to locations on the bus where the pieces have been removed. Another option being discussed the other day was whether or not we should have some sort of embroidery or colors on the cushions themselves? This could be another option, where the embroidery on the cushions corresponds to the laser cut etching on the wall? Furthermore, I loved the idea of famous quotes by different authors being the way cushions matched to their storage spaces.
My second comment was on the electrolette posting. The discussion about the electrical lighting is that it is going to be located on the edges of the ceiling or top of the wall in recessed lighting fixtures. Taking that in mind it might be a good idea to centralize the main power source near the driver's seat. Also this could be designed to be accessible, if it required maintenance, from the cab of the RV. As for outlets, I still think that centralizing the power source would be a good decision because then we could decide to run the wiring down two spaces (similar to the way that the wiring is being run from the plug at the rear of the RV to the battery) and we could then just plug in the outlets where we need them. This would organize the wiring into just a few lines that run down the RV and minimize our need to change the design to allow for electrical. I think that's a good idea but if anyone else has other ideas please put them out there!

Panel Thoughts

I had a lot of time to think during this weekend's long drive, and managed to devote a good amount of it to thinking about the bus - specifically about the removable panels/cushions. Here's a rundown of what I had been thinking about.

The panels need to have a pretty precise fit and, for reasons of saftey and durability, should also probably had rounded corners. As much fun as that would be to do 20 times w/ a jigsaw, it would probably be easier to laser cut them (like the model, but less frustrating). This means a couple of things. We could etch a computer engraved icon in each panel that indicates how to operate it. I thought about making some type of unversal icon that looked a little bit like those found on trash cans. Vince suggested that we write "push" in a different language on each panel. What do you guys think?

The interior of the panels and their supports could also utilize the laser cutter to accomodate for some neat things. Instead of relying on people to remember where they got their panel from, maybe we design some kind of graphic correlation between the cushion and the birch panel that sits behind the frame. This could also take several different forms, all of which (so far) involve the laser cutter as well.

1. We could number the panels and the cushions, so that cushion #1 would (ideally) be placed in opening #1. These numbers could be pretty large, enough to add interest to the fabric itself (which would have the outline of a large number in the center of it).

2. We could get 20 or so students (former/future students in the program?) to make some kind of simple design/line drawing, scan it into the computer and etch it into each panel. There would be the same 1:1 relationship here as there is with the numbered system, with drawings on the panels and in the frame being matched up to find the panels "correct" position.

3. Same deal, but with lines from famous poems to be matched with their authors. This makes the panels into a sort of educational device, as well as something to sit on.

I'm not sure how clear that all was, and don't have too much time right now, so I'll upload some sketches this evening. For now, what do you guys think? Should the panels have a "correct" position in the first place?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Time to Get Wired

Nicolette (aka Electrolette) and I made good progress on the wiring yesterday. Now that we’ve got a better understanding of the RV wiring I’m seriously considering (i.e. proposing) relocating/centralizing the main electrical panels and trickle charger. I’m thinking the main panels and charger should be relocated behind the driver’s seat above the inverter and forward of the generator box. This would put all the electrical stuff in one central location and outside the main classroom space. Another advantage is we wouldn't have to design the seating/work space storage around the electric panels. If possible it could be mounted to the backside (i.e. driver’s side) of the front printer/storage cabinets. Or if we’re building a wall between the driver’s area and the main space it could be mounted on the driver’s side of that wall. Not sure what we’re doing structurally there. Are there any thoughts/concerns about this?

Here is the preliminary list of electrical related design questions. It would be really nice to know the number and locations of electrical outlets so we can remove the old wiring, and place new boxes and wire immediately after getting the rough framing done. I keep thinking it would be nice to "hide" the outlets behind the removable wall sections so that they are only accessible when those panels are removed; but we"ll leave the final decision to the designers. Will we have dedicated outlets for the space heaters? Will these be plug-in heaters that can be placed anywhere or hard wired/fixed placements? Similarly the number and locations of light boxes and switches and projector location/mounts would be good to know by November 1st. Has anyone given any thought to whether the lights are standard 120v fixtures or 12 volt lighting (as the RV original had)? We can support either type.

Are we thinking of any additional wiring needs? For example: cable TV (coaxial), or network (CAT5/router) wiring and boxes, will the laptops have a wired hookup to the printers?

On the framing side of things I would also propose using metal studs. They are easy to work with, come with pre-cut holes for wiring, and are light weight. As usual this is up for discussion.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well, I crawled underneath the RV last night, while Yun Pei worked inside installing insulation, to finish measuring the space underneath the vehicle for the ramp. I have all the dimensions I need now and a good idea of what the design looks like in my head so I can draw it up this weekend in finalized version. It would help if I had copies of the file that shows the elevation drawings of the RV since I took some of my measurements off of that surface, so whoever has that (Vince or Zach) could you pass it along via email?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chair and Wood

I am currently of the mindset (despite Marco's heroic efforts) that the driver's chair with a good bit of Febreeze, ripping up a few more carpet dregs, and a good reupholstering - could stay in place. Why remove it.??We won't put the second chair back in probably - let's just leave it as is and clean it up a bit....

Also, there is a pile of wood that is good and usable and free and ours in the basement of the Redhouse. I will try to get David Clayton to deliver it to us but need a volunteer or two to lend a hand.

Can anyone plan on a big work session Wednesday afternoon - not only do we have a press conference the next day - we have work to do - collect wood or begin the insulation which has arrived. If you are working on something else like samples don't come help but otherwise anyone around from say 3-6pm - we could chip in and get some stuff done.

Press Release

Our press release appeared today, going out on the Syracuse University NEWS circuit.
Check it out here:

Official M-LAB Press Release

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just a suggestion about another place to start looking for salvaged/reclaimed lumber. The Building Materials Reuse Association (non-profit educational organization whose mission is to facilitate building deconstruction and the reuse/recycling of recovered building materials) has a directory on their website with a listing by state of companies that resell old building materials.
The listing for NY is quite lengthy with most sellers based in NYC, not upstate. But there are a few local companies listed. Note: not all the companies listed sell lumber, so we'd have to ask specifics over email or phone.
I haven't made any calls yet; since I know other people have been working on it. I just thought I'd post this in case our other sources for wood didn't work out.

Sunday Update

Today I harassed Marco about the chair.
And offered to help him if possible.

Will call about Wood later in the week
after meeting with Marion on Tuesday.

And plan on doing some awesome RV
baking on Tuesday or Wednesday.

And now back to my 10 page paper.

RV Access

Vince and I met this morning at the RV and discussed possible solutions for the ramp's location, structure, and functioning. We've decided to modify the existing storage under the RV into a foldable ramp which I'm planning on sketching out the design solutions for before Thursday. In the next few days I will be going down to the RV and measuring some of the spaces under the bus to work out the design more clearly so I can have the sketches to show how this ramp will be working!

Friday, October 19, 2007


As expected:
The 10x10 porcelain steel (magnetic dry erase board) sample arrived today.
It bends!
and it comes with a reliable adhesive backing.
Lighting will effect its color dramatically.

As unexpected:
So I called the manufacturer again today to follow up on some questions and spoke with a different tech person. Turns out we cant just layout a template on a 4x8 sheet and have it cut. Seeing as two people at the company told me two different things, I asked to speak with a third person and figured out what was going on. There is an incredible story of inefficiency and waste that I can share at a later date about why this is the case; it involves a very very large pile of scrap porcelain steel sheets in Temple Texas and maybe another sculpture/design project. The good news however, is that we can supposedly cut the stuff ourselves with the metal sheet shearer in our shop. We should test cut this thing tomorrow, Saturday. I could figure out how to use the machine, but does anyone already know how? Or can we contact Ron? Any suggestions.. call me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tomorrows Guests

So I quickly found out when calling up Joe-Schmoe for estimates on an RV paint job, that theres only so much an over the phone consultation can do. So we're having guests tomorrow, two exactly and they're coming between 1:30 and 6pm. I'm going to call Jeff during the day to find out when and will probably do the same for Dave.

The reason why we're having guests is that paint shops need to see the vehicle. I got a helpful answer from the last person I spoke with. When we ask for a price estimate, they want to have all the details... much like certain architecture students that I know :) ! So that means, asking questions like, well how many windows does it have? or how many colors do you want to use? or what colors do you want to use because higher tint = higher price. And many others.

Let me just set the scene for you all, here I am with my high pitched girl voice trying to remember the term "paint job" among other things and saying "Hi I have a 30' Holiday Rambler RV from the mid 80's and I was wondering if you could give me an estimate for how much it would cost to have it repainted?" This I assure you was hilarious and I myself had to take breaks to laugh about it.

The response I got ranged from, my favorite "Whoa! I don't even know how much it would cost. I mean it would be thousands. I could tell you about a car hood but an RV I mean I can't even imagine. We'd have to charge by the foot!" to the more critical "well, how many windows..." guy. Out of the dozen places I contacted locally, I received several no's and ultimately four good leads. The rough estimate given to me was 4-5,000 or 3,500-4,500 by two different sources. This demonstrates some consistency within the field. Two of the four serious places have handled RVs before, two have not. Two have worked previously with SU. So thats the update!
We'll find out more tomorrow!

October 17 Class Agenda

October 17, 2007
Social Sculpture
Instructor: Marion Wilson

1:30 *Review of Leading Design Concepts, materials and formal elements – Zack Vince Jessica Marion(five minutes)

1:45-5pm Break into small working groups

a. laying subfloor and prepping vehicle
David, Marco, Nicolette, Samantha, Yun Pei
b. recycled wood: Zack, Jessica, Marion
c. remaining design issues: walls, windows, exterior, lighting: Julia, Vince, Roslyn, Arjan
d. grants website budget Vince, Arjan Marion

5:00-5:45 Design Meeting (whole class) 5 minutes per item maximum

*Miwon Kwon article review (led by Samantha Harmon - ok she gets 10minutes)
*Update on floor sample and recycled wood– Zack and Jessica
* Presentation of cushion sample - Samantha
*exterior treatments - Roslyn
* accessibility – Nicolette
* Prep – Yun Pei and David
* wall treatment and windows– Julia, Zack
*dates to remember – Senator Valesky/POMCO, Mary Jane Jane Jacobs, Chancellor

5:45-6:00 Work Plan for the Week – who is doing what?
Prepare for Press Preview October 25th
Second meeting time or small groups model?

Monday, October 15, 2007

The LIminal Rambler: The Stairs are In

Some concrete progress today thanks to all! The stairs are up; the roof leak is fixed; the press release is written; the sub-floor is ready to be laid; we are actively searching for wood and have a lead with the school district.
Look for the class agenda on Wednesday and send me anything you want added. It will be an all hands on deck day in the RV - with a design meeting at the end of the day.
Love all of your quotes very inspiring!!

MLAB thoughts

First I'll begin with an update... I've begun working on some ideas for creating accessibility in the MLAB project. As for a quote for the press release, one can be gleaned out of the response to this question,"How does this class relate to your personal practice?"

The MLAB project is unique and there are many facets to the process of creating MLAB that are teaching us all a bit more about interdisciplinary design and the benefits of creating the bus. Not only are we working across the boundaries of different disciplines but this is also a project aimed at giving something back to the city of Syracuse in the form of a mobile arts bus and creative photography and writing course. In my personal practice I am very interested in the concept of social sculpture and creating intersections between different forms of design practice and user groups. I believe that all of the arts (including architecture) should strive to serve those members of the community who need it most. We've identified a need with MLAB for more space in the area schools and the project is providing this along with an enriching alternative learning space for the students. It's providing us, as a team of Syracuse University students, with the valuable experience of working with designers who may hold diverse interests and we are learning the value of creating community and teamwork, not only in our close knit design team, but throughout the larger Syracuse area and between the city and University. More closely aligned with my current projects in architecture I also have an interest in pushing the idea of accessibility for all students through the design of the RV.

postcards ordered

Just an update for the curious: We ordered another round of 500 postcards from ModernPostcards. We have taken the cheap route this time, w/ 4 day processing and 2 day delivery, so that means the cards won’t be ready for Thursday’s class; but they should be arriving at Marion’s doorstep early next week – ready to be handed out at the following class.

Also, my A to the Q: As I am still defining my own personal practice, I see m-lab (and involvement in other community partnership design/builds) as a means to ground myself and my work. There is a practicality to architecture that should be in parallel to the creative act of designing. In designing and building a space that responds to a community’s need by altering our concept of a “classroom”, a “RV” and even a course curriculum; m-lab embodies this parallel.

Several thoughts from Luna.

Visual update: the postcards that I picked up from the school look smashing. I'll add some photos in a bit. I have one more on the way, it was evidently stolen from the teacher's desk drawer for its creative pull. However, we're having a print made of it. Such artists!

On the homework/homefront: Will be calling about painting the bus & prices later today as I find the phone book or check online. As for the press packet, I'm having an excellent time brainstorming the possibilities. I have great quotes from the teachers involved on both the SU and Henniger sides. I also have photos from the last semester of work that I can include as "selected images". My cat is lying on the rest of my list, but I assure that it is sound and exciting. Had to move the cat anyways, the rest of the list includes referencing the Chancellor's speech that includes remarks about the Literacy through Photography program. She actually references the program in several but look for our Mikey in this one!

A Reflection of personal experience of public art and private life: First of all, I honestly believe that art should be a part of daily life. Too often art is put up on a pedestal, seen as something based on economic class standing etc, not something that serves a necessary purpose in society. Art is necessary. I am attracted to it because it makes me feel and my goal as an individual is to share this passion that I have for art with others. I've been reading Dewey's Art as Experience and he has it right; art is not solely the object, it is an interaction, an experience, a form of communication, between art as the object and the viewer. Sure this makes all things seem like art, but in some ways, aren't they?

My passion within the field is the role of the communicator, the megaphone that says "hey, look over here, there's a new gallery opening, its feaking awesome, you should come and see it." Its hard sometimes because people have different artistic experiences, my passion for one object is easily not shared by someone else. This makes the topic of public art a realm where not everybody is always satisfied and thats okay as long as people understand the role that art plays in society. A method of intense, semi-spiritual, personal enjoyment. A way of presenting social, political and other needs in an aesthetic manner. Human expression and communication within the visual field. That stuff shouldn't be bottled up under a private life heading. My goal is to breakdown this barrier and make art accessible to all. To encourage engagement within the arts, be it through education, creation, investment or other form of participation.

Liminal Rambler

When one considers recreational vehicles there is a fascinating multitude of designs, configurations, and equipment. Some are sleek aerodynamic glittering aluminum containers that epitomize corporate high technology and proclaim wealth. While others are rough homemade inbred affairs with things bolted on every which way and proclaim self sufficiency, a transient existence, and self sufficiency.

RVs are paradoxical. RV’s are all about traveling to new places and experiences while being able to bring all the comforts and conveniences of the places you’re escaping from. It’s about going on a journey while transporting your place intact. RVs represent a mobile form of a stable environment. They are a reflection of an itinerant culture’s reluctant to abandon its comforts and technology. The RV facilitates transportation and the crossing over into new frontiers while providing a space and the technology the traveler assumes will be absent without the vehicle. It is a product of technological change while being a vessel of permanence.

In our project we desire to create a space, facilitate experience, and transport students out of the mundane vulgar educational environments and into a world in which they can create and spiritually travel.

what i learn from M-lab

I guess i was never sure what kind of Design i am interesting in. This class do makes me think. The collaboration learning enviorment push me to think of what each indivisual artist are. so, When i think of my studio practice. i was some what confused about our program in my major, focuse on techology, and mass production so much, sometime we forget the art and craft in the culture. It doens't really sounds like relating to anything we do in Social sculpture class, but i think the idea of use the city, and culture, and each of us are all special desingers in different filed in one big team to preactice our art has lead me to think of what i want for being my way of desinger. what belifs i need ot hold on to for my own practice.
somepeople would say the beautiful ID design is just trendy, and it's not desgin.
But i think it's not trendy, yet it's still design, still art.
---i am not sure if i make any sense, but..... still.


more student quotes

"MLab is a portable classroom that doubles in function to add temporary additional space to the local schools but also to provide students with a place of learning that inspires creativity. Our design allows for students to inhabit the bus as if it was their own individualized workspace. The "classroom" emphasizes imagination and individual growth which is also encouraged by the Literacy through Photography program that will housed within this unique setting."

Roslyn Esperon '08

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The A to the Q

Q: "How does this class relate to your personal practice?"

Sam Harmon's A:

When I think about my studio practice, I'm not very interested in creating art that I think is apart from our daily visual culture.  Rather, I highlight and employ the visuals and materials that exist in my/our everyday, creating subtle foreignness among the genre painting of life.  I'd like to do at least make a blip in the brain waves,  and at most, unlocking a little discursive door into each human's personal narnia that they can visit once a lifetime or once a day.   Art is everything and nothing to me, and the things I do are manifestations of how I see and think.

SO, the m-lab project I don't separate from my studio practice entirely.  The m-lab - a raised bump on the skin of what we understand as everyday reality is on the same face as my other projects. The major difference is the collaborative means to the end.  I see parallels in terms of altering something that exists (in terms of the RV and the existing curriculum) rather than creating something from scratch.  The RV is a nontraditional art material, provoking us to see a number of things differently- including the RV, the classroom, and "sculpture," which are things I think about in my own work as well.

I could write a book, and I will, someday.

Love, Sam

On Liminality

Did some research on liminality (yes David it is a word!) and found this (below)which I think relates to our goals and process of making MLAB. The bus is/will be a point of entry - this in between space - neither here nor there - as it is both attached to the school and separate from the school. And when the students enter this suspended zone, the mlab space- they will feel suspended from the daily grind/activities or rituals of typical school life - hopefully freeing them up to be creative, see the world differently- and return to their traditional society a changed person. Robert Rauchenberg said his work operated in the gaps between art and life - liminality. Liminlaity is about both separateness and connectedness - a moment of suspended norms and boundaries -also a way of thinking about our collaborative process in class; we are both teacher - student - and design collaborators, individuals and a collective team. Read on...

"The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One's sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed - a situation which can lead to new perspectives. During the liminal stage, the between stage, one's status becomes ambiguous; one is "neither here nor there," one is "betwixt and between all fixed points of classification," and thus the form and rules of both his earlier state and his state-to-come are suspended. For the moment, one is an outsider; one is on the margins, in an indeterminate state. Turner is fascinated by this marginality, this zone of indeterminacy. He argues that it is from the standpoint of this marginal zone that the great artists, writers, and social critics have been able to look past the social forms in order to see society from the outside and to bring in a message from beyond it. "Victor Turner, Universtiy of Chicago

Social Sculpture students write about MLAB project

Social Sculpture Student Quotes

"learning from classmates, working as a creative team, building not
just a bus, but a relationship between society and people is what i
see this class is about. And, it's what i think art should be
about".---YunPei Hsiung, CVPA 09

“We are realizing the rhetoric of innovative community action that is inseparable from institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, I don't think that this is done enough, which makes what we are doing really special. We have identified a community need, and through teamwork, creativity, and hard work, we are not only going to create a beautiful and monumental living piece of artwork, but a functional space that will benefit our community and most importantly, our community of tomorrow.” -Jessica Posner Newhouse & CVPA, 08

"There is this mythic and often elusive ideal of interdisciplinary design in the various colleges, especially the design schools, at Syracuse University and we are now part of the model for how collaborative cross-discipline design can work in real time with a real project, alleviating very real problems for people in our community. What makes this project so big is that the fundamental need for space in schools and a more effective program for teaching linguistic literacy is not unique to our community here in Syracuse; but we are working on a prototype that is going to be reproducible across the country." -Vincent Appel MLab, SOA, 08

“This class is about stepping outside of the me- based realm of studio practice into the us/he/she/they/we space of a collaborative community project, where instead of an abstract notion of ‘audience,’ we have a very tangible group of people who we must consider, engage, and sustain on a number of levels.” -Samantha Harmon, CVPA, sculpture major, 09

"The beauty of the m-lab project is that through a collaborative design process we can directly address the issues outside our college classroom, but within our own community."
Julia Dalton, SOA 08

Saturday, October 13, 2007

M-Lab on facebook!

M-Lab now has a Facebook account! The Facebook name is "M-Lab Syracuse." Check your emails for the password and login info.

I used Zach's photoshop image of the bus up by the quarry as our picture... but that could of course change.

The only other info I put on the page was our blog address.

I dont think this will function like the blog really, but I think this is a great way to help give the bus an identity. Kind of like what Yun was proposing... the high school students could definitely "Friend" us, well the bus anyway, on Facebook.

[Thanks Facebook for affording us this virtual anthropomorphism!]

gmail account and website

In terms of email address - I love it - in terms of the date rather than the date of when the idea of MLAB was conceived, how about if the date was the the age of the vehicle - in that way if there were more mlabs to come - the date could always be the age of the vehicle - similiar to your idea of no repeat with Syracuse in the address.

Also I think we can draw a collective mission statement that we will need for the website from the individual quotes. Please keep sending them to my email address.

Friday, October 12, 2007!

Check your emails! In trying to set up a Facebook account I realized that we needed an email address. So, I created a Gmail account for us. I am leaving the address itself off of this post to avoid confusion in case it isn't the name we go with. Let me know what you think.

If we did add anything to the postcard, I would suggest our email address.

Round 2, Postcards

I know Marion talked about this a bit in class, but I didn't get any specific feedback . . . Do we want to order a second round of postcards??

and if so, how many . . . 250, 500?

and should there be a change to the design? I.e. should our names be included somewhere? Also, should the x be removed from the front? (I've talked to a # people, confused about what this means)

Finally, are we planning on keeping a scanned record of the postcards (idea being used for the website)??

Feedback would be a plus, lemme know what you think.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

RV Spotting

At approximately 5:10 pm today, Wednesday, October 10th, one male of approximately 5' 10" by the name of David Harris was spotted at the RV. He was wearing a white t-shirt and appeared to be working on the RV. No harm was done to the vehicle and no other witnesses were available for comment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pillow Talk

This is Sam writing.

On Tuesday Marion and I met with Stephanie Liner (professor of sculpture/artist/upholsterer/human), who showed us some upholstering solutions, but quickly we came to realize cushions would be more practical as they are easier to clean and move about a space.  She is willing to give us cushion tutorials if we cannot navigate our way through the milky seas of pleasurefully plastic-ey fabric we have.

We journeyed to Joann Fabrics where we chose a kind of table cloth/vinyl white material for the cushion prototypes.  It's surface is water resistant and can be wiped down for cleaning.

In terms of color, this of course is up to discussion, but I was drawn to white  for its bright freshy freshness.  In order to make unique each pillow, possibly rendering a little identity for each within a cohesive aesthetic could easily be attained through incorporating different colors and textures in splashes and blips on the neutral white.  Lots o possibilities.  

Something tactile, pleasing, comfortable, flexible, visually interesting, probably simple.

There are a many number of ways to approach making the pillow---we have densified batting rectangles that are 3-4 inches thick ( 17"x15"x3" and 22x22x4) that are precut as individual shapes that act as the pillow form-- no stuffing involved.

I say no zippers.  Zippers are treacherous territory of snags and frustration.  

Flaps, velcro, buttons, ties, grommets, OR not a case at all--but a sewed up enclosure seem to be the way to go.  If the surface is to be wiped down for cleaning then perhaps we need not to have the fibrous innards removable. 

October 10 Class Agenda

October 10, 2007
Social Sculpture
Instructor: Marion Wilson

1:30 Photograph of class in front of RV by Development:Incite/Insights

2:00 Design Meeting (guest: Jo Thomas)

*Review of Leading Design Concepts and formal elements - Marion
*Presentation of Drawings -Vince, Zack, Yun-Pei
a. re-usable materials/wood flooring – Jessica
aa. scrapile – Zack
b. wall samples/paint samples – Julia
c. cushions - Sam
d. flooring – Roslyn
e. accessibility – Nicolette
f. demolition – Marco/David

*Miscellaneous –
a. postcards – Julia, Nicolette
b. fundraising – Marion, Arjan – need a volunteer
c. dates to remember – Senator Valesky/POMCO, Mary Jane Jane Jacobs
d. contacts for Sara Mortimer - Jessica, Yun Pei, Vince

3:00 Fabrication demonstration and discussion of floor repair - David

3:30 Divide Class/Working Session
a. finalize design - group 1
b. repair floor, construct steps, purchase materials- group 2
c. create work plan for fabrication – group 1

5:45 Whole Group Meeting
a. approve final design
b. approve work plan
c. Project date for a fabrication CHARETTE

For next week:
Submit budgets, maintain blog, purchase materials, WORK PLAN.
List of who is doing what.
I spoke with Steve regarding the possibility of using scraps for the stairs and he wondered if we could possibly use some of Arjan's materials to make the steps tomorrow? With Arjan's permission of course, we could have the steps completed rather quickly if Marco and I worked on them just during classtime. Another option, if Arjan needs his materials, we would have to buy our own sheets of plywood and cut and construct the stairs this weekend or before next week or buy Arjan a new sheet of plywood. Either way we have to ask Arjan and find out about this tomorrow during class time so we can get these things finished. I stopped in at the bus and Marco hasn't yet gotten the driver's seat out of there so I haven't been able to strip that side of the RV.

On a side note, there will be an interesting presentation on October 15th at 4pm in Gifford Auditorium regarding ideas surrounding disability. Jonathan Mooney apparently took a short bus and travelled the country talking to and recording the stories of members of the disability community. Just thought that some of you might be interested in this intersection of transportation and this issue because it can certainly relate pretty strongly to the M-LAB project. Following the presentation by Mr. Mooney there will be a lecture and discussion at 7PM in Watson Theater and a series of film shorts. Look for posters around campus if you are interested or contact me for more details!

See you all tomorrow in class!

On the Quest for Reclaimed Materials

Given the interest our team has had in the potential for using reclaimed materials in our construction, I took the liberty to make some calls around campus to get information on how to find this stuff. I know it's possible-- my landlord floored my house in old SU gym flooring!

So I got to calling. I began with Physical Plant, who referred me to Recreational Services and Excess Property. From there, I was referred back to everyone I'd just talked to, and then was put into contact with Design and Construction. At Design and Construction, I spoke with Mary Kendrat who suggested I put everything in an email and send it to a Ms. Carol Melendez (who was in a meeting), the secretary/administrative assistant to the Director of Design and Construction. So I did this. According to Ms. Kendrat, Ms. Melendez would get the email to the right people to help us find what we needed. We're just waiting on her response.

Here's the mail:
Dear Ms. Melendez,

Hello, my name is Jessica Posner. I am a senior Sculpture and
Television, Radio and Film major at Syracuse University, and I'm
emailing to enquire about acquiring reclaimed materials for a
community project that I'm currently a part of. Mary Kendrat gave
me your email address, saying you where the exact woman to get in
touch with as you know the avenues of information and would be able
to connect me with the information and people I need.

First, I'll tell you about our project:

As part of a Social Sculpture course through the College of Visual
and Performing Arts, a combined class of Architecture and Art
students are currently working to transform a used 30' RV into a
Mobile Literacy Arts Bus (M-Lab) for use by the Syracuse City School
District and the greater Syracuse Community. Thus far, we have a
acquired and gutted the RV. We are currently in the design stage, but
will very shortly begin with our construction. As a team, we are very
interested in Green design and construction, and would very much like
to use reclaimed materials in the construction of furniture and
interior for the bus. We are particularly interested in wood-- like
old gym flooring-- but would be interested in hearing more on any
other materials to which you have access/information. This interior
will serve as classroom, digital lab, community space, and gallery.
As a team, we think it is very important to work in an
environmentally conscious and responsible way-- which is why I've
contacted you about finding and acquiring reclaimed materials.
Furthermore, in using reclaimed materials from the University, we
believe that we will be contributing to the legacy and relationship
of SU out into the Syracuse Community-- which is where and whom our
project will be serving.

Furthermore, we are on a tight budget and tight time frame, so any
help you could offer would be much appreciated.

If you could please help provide me with information as to who to
contact or how to find and acquire reclaimed materials for use by my
team in our efforts to transform an old RV into an exciting Mobile
Literacy and Arts Bus, we would very much appreciate it.

Please contact me with any questions, concerns, or information. Also,
visit our blog at to see
our team in action.

Thank you,

Jessica Posner

If anyone else has any sort of leads on acquiring stuff, let's get on it!
Found some free barnwood on craigslist in Hannibal, NY id we're interested...
Also, some other interesting stuff for sale on craiglslist under "materials."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

M-Lab is being highlighted in SUs most recent capital campaign drive. They are putting together a swanky brochure and have been checking out our blog for fotos. They want to re-shoot the one of the class in front of the RV on this Thursday promptly at 1:30. Can everyone be there on time for the group photo- David Harris too.


Like everyone, I am in a scrabble looking for the right materials at the right price. After some online searching and a trip to Home Depot (wow does this sound like an ad right off HGTV?!) I've located some options:

Chalkboard paint! The best deal is at Home Depot: 30 oz. for $11.48. We could also use Targets online store but they are slightly more expensive. We would be able to cover 95-120 square feet with this can. It might be fun to cover the outside of the bus entirely as a chalkboard. The paint can be used on outside surfaces! It would be expensive but cool.

Dry Erase Paint! The best deal is also at Home Depot: 27 oz. for $22.99. It would cover a 7 x 7 sq foot area. However, there is a great site with alternatives to paint itself. The site shows tests from a number of surfaces which we could try out and explains them all in detail.

Now for the off the wall part...flooring.

After speaking with a saleswoman from Home Depot (again with the brand name references!), I came to the conclusion that vinyl may be a good flooring choice. Sure, no one likes the texture and it smells funny on the roll but it also makes for a durable and easily cleanable surface. I've found several (in other words two) top choices.

Roll Vinyl! This vinyl can be cut to a 12'x3o-something' bus length and then cut down to fit within our bus. It ranges in price from $0.88-$1.32 per square foot. Some of the good quality roll vinyl is non-glue but self-adhesive. These are held down with self-adhesive baseboards. Which is the only problem that I see- baseboards are fairly ugly. The vinyl itself comes in a variety ranging from pretty terrible looking to polyurethane covered fake wood. Likewise, based on the vinyl, we can get a 5-15 year warranty for it! That means if someone sticks their pen through the flooring in the center of the bus, we don't have to worry.

TrafficMaster Allure! This is a more up-scale version of the vinyl roll. In the first place, it eliminates the roll. These are 12"x36" panels that are stuck together like overlapping patchwork. This goes for approximately $2.00 per square foot but it may be worth it. There have been great reviews for it and it comes in much nicer looking stone or wood like choices. This form of vinyl is made for endurance but also comes with a 25 year warranty. It also means that we would be able to replace the tile with the pen hole and not the entire surface.

Last but not least lets take a look at the lighting. But be careful, don't stare directly at the bulb.

My lighting search was to find something functional and funky. For both gallery and everyday use. What could be neat would be using a multi-headed lighting fixture that allowed for individual movement of each light. These could be placed centrally and positioned for any use. What I would also suggest is using lighting to create an atmosphere. It would be quite funky and unclassroom like if we could use different lampshade/head things for each light on the multi-headed fixture! So we could do a blue and an orange and a red or a yellow. Something cool that would make this bus seem more of a student's room than a typical classroom. Such lamp heads run approximately $10-15 each.

So there are my thoughts! Also, the last Literacy through Photography class is being held on Monday at 8:00 AM so if you'd like to attend class with me and observe either the lack of windows, how we teach on a regular basis or to expand your own creative writing talents, you're welcome to join up! Today I distributed buscards (aka our postcards) and hopefully next Monday we'll have a whole crop of them to pick up!

Til next time bloggers! Roslyn

some more ideas and thoughts for materials . . .

Posted are some pics from a Thom Faulders installation commissioned by the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco. He filled the entire gallery w/ a wave of memory foam (stuff used for bike seats, mattresses etc.) and drastically changed the dynamic of the space. Not sure if we'd want push it that far, but I've put in a request for a sample, so we can at least consider it's possibilities.

Also, I've ran around Syracuse this morning and picked up some specialty paints . . . blackboard paint, markerboard paint and high-end graffiti spray paint (like used at FunkNWaffles). I haven't tested any of it yet, but I'll try and have some tested out for Thursday.

I like the Scrapile idea and really enjoy their furniture . . . 4Korners out of brooklyn also uses reclaimed materials for their furniture design. If we were to use this technique for the bus, do we have any specific ideas about where to start collecting scraps?

Monday, October 8, 2007

I love the re-used scrap wood idea - maybe for the floor too. Only thing is as cushions they don't look too comfortable or inviting. Could they be combined somehow with upholstering of any artistic,sculptural,more playful colorful sort. Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12:00 anyone and everybody is invited to meet with Stephanie Miner, new faculty at COMART to talk with us about upholstering. I know Sam, Roslyn and I are going.

Also, this weekend I was in NYC and took great shots of lighting possibilities on the Bowery, and, got a great idea about floor and wall treatment at PS 1 Contemporary Arts Center (which is a huge old urban school re-furbished into a contemporary arts space). I think we should use buffed sanded cheap or reused wood on the floor and then just stain it off white and buff it again. The galleries were a really beautiful use of re-cycled materials and different shades of white. Yun you would have loved it. They also used thick sheets of masonite painted with black chalkboard paint propped on a really thin shelf to announce the shows and draw a map of the galleries in the lobby. I took a foto.

Also took fotos of the new New Museum going up on the Bowery - very few windows but beautiful surface.

The rest of the stripping and the stairs

I just wanted to let you all know that I spent about 3 hours Sunday morning stripping the carpet from the passenger side out of the RV and cleaning it up a bit. Marco hasn't yet gotten back to me on when he can remove the driver's side chair... but I could probably work on the steps in the meantime too. I'm planning on talking to Steve Ginsburg in the woodshop regarding the steps and if I can use any scraps he has it may help us out with not needing to buy the materials for those. Brian McLane has not yet responded to my last email but on a positive note I did get a good chunk of my stack of postcards of the bus filled out so I'll bring those Thursday.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


... and thanks everyone for getting the dimensions of the equipment into that spread sheet.

IDEA~ inspired by Scrapile

SCRAPILE is the collaborative work of designers Bart Bettencourt and Carlos Salgado. Seeking to create a possitive environmental impact with their work, these two have developed a unique method of collecting and repurposing discarded scraps of wood from New York's woodworking industry. Since it's conception in Fall 2003, this project has continued to yield an ever-evolving line of furniture and product which by its very nature insists each piece be one of a kind

------ From

Vincent, Zach, and I came up thith this idea that was inspired by Scrapile's work. Useing the scraps wood to creat our funiture for the bus. Since this bus is made for the society, we think it's a great idea that we took scraps wood from Syracuse's constraction site. use city's scrap to build this M-lab and give it back to the city has offered a lof of meanings. We can even hang a photo of where we took the wood from in the bus, just for people to remember and to give a little history for the bus itself.

The next set of drawings are coming...

Yun, Zach and I started working Saturday on the next set of drawings. We still have a good deal to do before Thursday. Here are some sketches of our progress.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chancellor Cantor

Quick Update!!!

I met the Chancellor this morning and took the opportunity to invite her
again to come and check out the RV. She knew immediately what I was talking
about and was really excited to hear about how its been going. She is absolutely
enthused about our project and so hopefully we'll be able to host a visit with her
in the future!

As for other news!

My Literacy through Photography class will be going to Henniger High School on
Tuesday morning (7:45-9:10). If any of you early birds or architects with questions
about windows would like to engage your creative writing skills, check out some awesome
photography or just get an idea of what happens on a regular basis, let me know!

Adios! Roslyn

Friday, October 5, 2007

Numbers, Etc.

Just an update for everyone, I spent the morning taking inventory and writing down the dimensions for all the equipment our design needs to accommodate. Posted is a jpeg of the excel file w/ all the #'s and some estimates on total cubic feet needed. I'll send the orginial excel file through email (since the blog won't read the file type). More pictures of the equipment are available if anyone needs them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Week 5: David Harris

David Harris, who first joined our team a few weeks ago, has become pivotal in gaining understanding of our vehicle and it's structure. Here are his observations and suggestions from this past week:

After inspecting the waste water and clean water tanks on the RV my recommendation is to leave them in place and permanently cap off any drains, vents, or supply lines. All the tanks are on the port (driver side) of the RV. Removing them would require a significant effort and we would not gain any additional useable space. If possible the caps should be placed at or below the sub-floor level.

The existing sub-floor can be cut out using a circular saw set to the correct depth and removed around any pipe(s), holes in floor and/or where water damage is. Once the existing sub-floor is removed we can cut the pipes to the desired height and glue caps in place. New pieces of sub-floor (I think we can use half-inch plywood) can then be cut and installed (glued and screwed). Insulation under the sub-floor should be replaced prior to installing the new sub-floor pieces.

Once we have a better idea of the interior design and before we begin fabrication, it probably would be worth spending some time with your electrician friend to help us identify what wiring can be permanently and safely removed from the vehicle as well as his advice on adding on any additional circuits (e.g. extra sockets, lights, and switches). For safety sake and ease of building out the space it would be nice to have every remaining wire and circuit clearly identified and labeled.

David A. Harris
Process Analyst
Enterprise Process Support
Syracuse University
October 4
Class Agenda
*Review reading of Tom Finkelpearls' interview with Paolo Friere:
Roslyn Esperon leads discussion
*complete cleanup of RV post insulation removal
*Nicolette and Julia present new schematics
* finalize the design as a group
*MTVU grant update with JPosner
*between class assignments - expectations and schedule
* update on Oct 25th unveiling for POMCO and Valesky
*construction of wooden stairs: Marco, Steve Ginsburg
*fundraising strategies - accessibility, SMART classroom, solar panels
MLAB develops a Community wide focus group to advise and support the development of the project. First meeting was September 25, 2007
Members include:
Mike Barrington, ninth grader, Henninger Hs
Cory, ninth grader, Henninger HS
Randy Weatherby, Nottingham HS technology teacher
Christina Ferlenda, Nottingham art teacher
Len Fonte, consultaant for PBE and retired Nottingham English teacher
Pam Heintz, MAS Center for Publia & Community Service
Linda Littlejohn, Southside Initiative
Frank Olive, artist, Warehouse Gallery
Michael Burkard, poet, SU faculty of Creative Writing
Stephen Mahan, photographer, teaching artist for SCSD/SU

Week 5: Images

Two Henniger High School students providing valuable feedback at our focus group.

Ron DeRutte providing technical perspective on our proposed designs.

The raw exo-skeleton of our RV, ugly brown paneling and insullation removed.

Yun-Pei in ihs Tyvek suit, stripping insullation from the interior to leave us with a fresh pallete to design upon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mary Jane Jacobs

Mary Jane Jacobs will visit with our class on Tuesday, October 30th at 10am-11:30.

Yun Pei and I will be removing insulation Wednesday afternoon from 2-5:30. Can anybody else assist then?

Reading Assignment: Paulo Friere article.

Class starts promptly at 1:30.