We Demand Bean Bags

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"Bean Bags!" by James Willock is licensed under Creative Commons.

by Alex Huizar

Dance classrooms at The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) have brand new floors and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Musicians have access to sound-proof rooms. The Creative Writing department, however, doesn’t have any structural accommodations or furnishings at all.

Since the Creative Writing department demands so little, it should have bean bag chairs to help create a comfortable environment for writers.

The first year I was in the Creative Writing program, I have a clear memory of being promised bean bag chairs by Tina Boyer Brown, the department head. Four years later, my classmates and I still spend our three-hour conservatory period on hard, unsupportive plastic chairs.

It might seem like bean bag chairs are uncommon, or that other schools don’t have accommodations like them. But in 2013 a school in Grand Rapids, Michigan received 1,000 bean bag chairs in hopes of “providing comfort and a better learning environment” for its students, according to MLive Michigan.

Gideon Sanders, who works at Grand Rapids Public Schools, said studies have shown that bean bag chairs provide support for students by helping them focus.

“It’s like a stress ball but for your body,” said Ruth Jones a senior in the Creative Writing program at ChiArts.

It’s important to note where ChiArts gets its funding, and how it opts to use that funding.

According to ChiArts’ Director of Finance Karin Nangreave, “Each department is funded proportionately to  and may have different needs depending on the subject matter.”

Jose Ochoa, the executive and artistic director of ChiArts, told me in an email that ChiArts has to raise $3,500,000 a year in order to keep the conservatories running the way they do. He wrote, “The amount of money we raise for ChiArts unprecedented. In fact, I am aware of at least two local colleges/universities that raise less money than us.”

If, in fact, ChiArts makes so much money then why is it that a few simple $39.99 bean bag chairs from Target are too much of a financial burden?

Ochoa’s answer to that question, according to his email, is that “if donors feel we spend money on frivolous items they’ll no longer give to ChiArts and then we’ll have to cut our budget which will affect teaching and learning.”

The word frivolous is characterized by lack of seriousness or sense, but this is a serious request. Twenty percent of teens suffer from depression, and even more suffer from anxiety. Comfort and safety, even in the most seemingly tiny places, alleviate those problems.

Creative writers often feel swept to the side. We don’t need brand new instruments or Marley dance floors. We have a regular classroom with chairs and desks and all we ask for is some bean bag chairs so we can feel relaxed in a space where we’re suppose to create deep poems and the next award-winning novels. We are of the utmost earnestness and to think otherwise of our one request shows the lack of administration knowing the Creative Writing conservatory.

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