Janeil Engelstad

Make Art with Purpose

Mobile Ecology Art Lab 


The Make Art with Purpose Mobile Ecology Art Lab (MEAL) is a retrofitted shipping container outfitted with curriculum, materials and plans for an ecological classroom for adults and children. MEAL will sited on or near the SS Palo Alto project grounds where it will expand into a mobile classroom with floors, doors, windows, and skylights. National Science Foundation funding will be used to: support the deign, manufacturing and outfitting of the Mobile Ecological Art Lab; purchase materials for MEAL projects and workshops; and other costs associated with operating MEAL. 


The primary objective of MEAL is to provide an adaptable and inspiring structure where people learn ocean science and conservation and sustainable practices that improve their daily lives and also benefit their community and the planet.  


Additional objectives include:    

-Educating participants about their environment and eco-systems 


-Teaching skills that contribute to the participants creative potential and professional development


-Helping the participants acquire concern for their environment, to encourage and motivate them to actively improve it


-Producing a site-specific project connected to the local environment that will benefit the entire community by promoting community development and contributing to the local infrastructure 




-Creating a platform where artists, scientists, business leaders and community members come together to teach, learn, engage, and create positive social and environmental change


-Developing, producing and maintaining long-term legacy programs that continue to benefit the participants and the community after the Mobile Ecology Art Lab has traveled to a new location  


MEAL programs will not only promote ocean ecology, but also advance sustainable models for livelihood that will in turn strengthen civil society. The programs that are currently being developed as a part of the Mobile Ecology Art Lab’s core curriculum are:  


-Bio-fuel composting sites that generate electricity


-Recycling programs that contribute to the local infrastructure


-Water remediation projects that will bring aesthetic qualities to the aquatic environment


-Arts based learning / ocean science workshops   


MEAL programs include:

Led by water reediation experts Greenmeme, The MEAL water remediation program, teaching a whole systems approach to pollution cleanup using local resources. Working with local partners, MEAL teams made up of artists, scientists and engineers will work with the project participants to help them build and maintain safe and successful pollution cleanup systems. Through these workshops the participants will come together to create constructed wetland / marsh / salt water sculptures that include native plants that actively break down water pollutants. Individual workshops will also focus on water quality issues, water pollution, and habitat loss. Signage and printed materials will be interpret the project for the larger community.  


Mick Larusso, a MAP affilate artist who has been working with bio-energy since 2009 will head the MEAL bio-energy program along with Doctora Alejandra Castro, an engineer in biodigester technology at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City. Using basic materials, workshop participants will build small-scale alternative systems that produce energy from organic waste. The supplies for these systems will be sourced locally. Additionally, the participants will repurpose household materials, such as plastic containers in the making of these systems. Bacteria, which are necessary for this process, will come from Monterey Bay. The bio-energy produced through this community built system will provide electricity to MEAL and/or the SS Palo Alto project. The curriculum for the bio-energy workshops will include a basic introduction to the science of the project and hands-on instruction and guidance on designing, constructing, and maintaining the systems. The program will also consist of individual workshops about the building of microbial fuel cells, salt bridges, and electrodes using simple and easy to understand plans.  


Community programs for gathering plastic trash that can be re-used and re-purposed will also be designed and implemented as a part of the MEAL recycling program. The trash collected in the recycling program will be used as raw materials for construction. Participants will design and construct a small building using plastic bottles and other recycled materials. The curriculum will include design and construction courses where the participants will create interlocking bricks with a binding agent such as sand, stucco, or plaster. Matej Vakula, an artist who has extensive experience creating objects and buildings from re-purposed trash will manage and help teach the recycling program.  


All of these programs will be taught from the Mobile Ecology Art Lab, which will be designed by the award winning architectural firm, LOT-EK. Initiating the idea of “container architecture” in 1995, LOT-EK has acquired vast experience and expertise in this field. They have completed projects acclaimed by critics/media and the public as breakthrough in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. At the same time, they have cultivated fruitful and on-going collaborations with engineering consultants and fabricators. Through these collaborations they have devised unique structural and mechanical solutions that are specific to container construction technology and that have produced successful solutions for both permanent and transportable architecture. The Mobile Ecology Art Lab will be durable and easy to maintain, with specific parts that can be easily replaced if necessary.  


The Mobile Ecology Art Lab is committed to actively meeting and engaging people where they are, geographically and developmentally, to help them transition to economically and environmentally just and sustainable societies, which will also contribute to the long-term vitality of humanity and the planet.