Appalachian art professor creates classroom space using a bus with solar panels

Creativity and sustainability – at Appalachian State University, these two values often go hand-in-hand. As the founder of after-school art program Room 13, art professor Victoria Grube puts both into practice regularly. Grube has run the program, which is free of charge for local children, since 2009. In Room 13, elementary and middle school-aged children use donated materials and “found objects” to create art.

“Children have natural curiosity and great ideas on their own. The goal is for children to teach us how to use materials,” Grube said, speaking on how she lets the kids run wild with their ideas without direction from adults.  

Originally, the program was offered in Appalachian’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, and more recently moved to Wey Hall, which houses the art department. According to Grube, the program continued to increase in popularity, and often the students would spill out of the room and into the hallway.  

To solve this problem, Grube drafted a grant to purchase a school bus and is renovating the vehicle to become an art studio. In addition to finding a way to give new purpose to an old bus, her vision includes harnessing solar energy to power everything from sewing machines to power tools. Grube enlisted the help of Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment to build storage shelves, a roll-away woodworking bench, access ramp and a Tyvek awning to protect students and equipment from harsh weather.

Grube is also working with Appalachian’s Renewable Energy Initiative (ASUREI), a student-led organization, which, according to its website, “installs renewable energy and energy-efficient projects on campus.” According to ASUREI PR Co-Chair Aiden Wilser, the club is donating the solar panels and providing the funds to get them running.

The mobility of the bus is also useful. Grube is excited to take the studio-on-wheels to nearby areas and extend the reach of the after-school program. 

Vehicle construction is underway and is expected to be completed in April of 2019. To learn more about Room 13, contact Grube at

By Katie Dungan and Caroline Lubinsky

About the Department of Art

One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Art at Appalachian State University prepares students to explore art, identity, expression and creative problem-solving while challenging them to go beyond their previous limits by discovering new connections to culture. The department offers degrees in art and visual culture, art education, graphic design, studio art, commercial photography and graphic arts and imaging technology, with minors in art history, studio art, commercial photography and graphic arts and imaging technology.

About the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment

One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University features an integrated array of programs spanning the fields of sustainable design and technology.  Its mission is to foster a strong and vibrant culture of inquiry, discovery and innovation that integrates theory with application, problem seeking with problem-solving, local issues with global perspectives and technological progress with environmental stewardship. It offers bachelor’s degrees in sustainable technology and building science, and a master’s degree in technology.

About the College of Fine and Applied Arts

Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance.

School bus
Published: Feb 8, 2019 10:17am