After this last presidential election a year ago, there have been a lot of emotions coming to the surface both positive and negative in this country. This week, in particular, has turned out to be either a great bit of joy or the worst day ever for your team depending on which side of the line you sit. I won’t get into an ethical argument about who I voted for and why I’m not in the mood for a political discussion. It’s tragic that it is seen as just sport because the outcome affects me on so many levels and it’s beyond troubling how eye-opening the last year has been for me as a citizen of this country.
Even though this blog is my creative space and I allowed my opinion; my sole opinion isn’t the focus of this post. This post is about an artist’s reaction to everyone’s collective opinion and sentiment. Which is why I think it turned into a great art think piece. The piece started in the Union Square Subway Station in Manhattan and was titled the Subway Therapy wall. It was all over the news and social media documented the hell out of it, in a positive way. It lasted more than the intended time, which ended up being three months in the subway station that was originally only supposed to last three weeks. Actually, it was amazing that it remained in such pristine condition considering that it was displayed in such a high traffic area.
What was The Subway Therapy Wall About?
The Subway Therapy wall was started by Matthew “Levee” Chavez. Before the Post-it Notes on the walls of the subway station, he would sit at a fold up table with pen and paper and offer a notebook to anonymously write whatever was bothering you. Sometimes people didn’t actually write anything, they would just talk and say that they felt like they just went to therapy after it was over, Levee stated on his website.
And as volatile as the past election season was, the day after he started offering Post-It Notes to travelers in the station to express how they were feeling and a huge collection began to appear on the walls. The first week, the notes were really emotional and the collection kept growing. At this point, people had begun bringing their own Post-its and even coming up with large collages made up of all Post-its. What started on one wall grew to a whole corridor of the train station from floor to ceiling from one entry to the other.
What Were The Effects of The Subway Therapy Wall?
It was a catharsis, that happened in a very stressed filled environment. An unseen tension was broken and it had very surprising outcomes.
- New York was a powder keg of emotions after that political season, so it helped people, especially young people feel heard. Millennials were already disillusioned with the political process and this election’s results didn’t help. They got to air out their feelings in a communal place and feel validated because they were so many others feeling the same way.
- It was a positive outlet and made people see their neighbor’s suffering or perceived suffering as their own. It sparked empathy and discussion about something strangers wouldn’t approach each other to talk about since politics is usually seen as a taboo subject.
- For those that were going to give up on the political process and needed encouragement to fight on and stay engaged, they came out the other end energized knowing that being politically active isn’t about one night but continuing to stay plugged in even at the local level.
What Became of The Subway Therapy Wall?
The governor of New York named it a state treasure to be kept in the New York History archives. If that isn’t a testament to the “little people” I don’t know what is. All the notes were carefully cataloged. And the artist, Matthew Chavez has gone on to compile the notes into a coffee table book and is on tour promoting it. Matthew “Levee” Chavez has done similar therapy walls in Charlottesville, Brussels, and Malmo Sweden to help these cities heal after tragedies.
Were you able to see the Subway Therapy wall when it was up? Has a piece of art ever moved you to feel like this? Was there a similar think piece that popped up in your city? Tell me what you thinking in the comments below, I can’t wait to read.
Until our next rendezvous…