Shin: Make winter a canvas for creativity with bus stop warming stations

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Shin: Make winter a canvas for creativity with bus stop warming stations

Heiwon Shin, Columnist

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I know I signed up for cold weather when I decided to come to Northwestern, and I don’t regret it one bit. But especially given the fact that most of our academic year — fall, winter and spring — coincides with the coldest time of the year in Chicago, I think there are ways NU can make the seemingly all-year around coldness more bearable. One solution could be to make warming shelters at shuttle stops, both on and between campuses.

One idea is for NU to start investing in building a warming shelter around each of the shuttle stops. Conveniently enough, NU is planning big changes for what the campus is going to look like, so this could definitely be feasible.

Yes, building or making such shelters on off-campus stops would be more complicated. But maybe we could rend and refurbish existing buildings, which could also involve the NU community. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Need I say more about why it is good idea? I don’t know many people who are immune or exempt from the harsh cold at NU. This is a practical solution that can really change the NU community. It impacts people on and off campus making short or long commutes. Walking outside is not the least bit fun and waiting for shuttles in the cold is even worse.

But what’s more, this solution can become a unique, defining culture for NU.

During midterms and finals the libraries and residence halls have free coffee and cookies and offer events to help de-stress like bringing therapy dogs to Norris University Center. Likewise, we can use this potentially stressful winter commute as a creative outlet.

I am not an architect so what I recommend may not all be applicable, but why not build a bus stop shelter that includes whiteboard walls where passersby can doodle, write messages and just play around? The Block Museum of Art has blue walls where people can draw whatever they want with chalk. It’s so beautiful and inspiring, and we can easily recreate something like this at bus stops.

Why not be writers and poets? In one common English class exercise, students are given a piece of paper with a limited amount of time to write whatever story, and once the time is up we hand it to the person next to us to continue it — ending up with something wacky but also kind of ingenious. This kind of collaborative art could be just one use for these whiteboards.

Additionally, the shelter could be equipped with speakers so we can enjoy music while waiting for the shuttles. We could have a user-generated music station: WNUR could offer a special station where members of the NU community send in stories and song requests. Caffe Bene, one of the largest chain coffee shops in Korea, has a radio station exclusively for its users for that purpose. The DJs read and comment on the submissions and just talk about the day. This human touch and warmth is why, especially in winter, I choose to go to Caffe Bene over millions of commercialized chain cafes. Alternatively, we could have a music device at each of the shelters where people can manually choose songs according to their mood and maybe even start a dance party.

We could also have mini-screens that not only show a map and alert us when the bus is coming but also feature news from various campus organizations.

I could spend an entire day coming up with fun and artsy community projects using this warming shelter as a canvas and still have more ideas. Opportunity is what we make it.

Heiwon Shin is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to