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, October 9, 2007


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


Julia said...

I purchased a can of the blackboard paint + the dry erase paint and applied samples to some plywood . . . right now each is still drying (dry erase takes 2 days!), so we can test out the two products in class on thursday!

cazhog said...

Excellent materials research. As regards to flooring I've been thinking we might want different types of flooring for different sections of the RV. For example, vinyl near the doorways, wood in front storage and gallery area, and possibly cork tile in the rear writing area. Just a thought.
I can't wait to see/feel/test the paint samples.