NYC’s Post-It Art Therapist Returns to Give Solace in the Wake of Charlottesville

Matthew "Levee" Chavez's "Subway Therapy" had a message this weekend.

Matthew "Levee" Chavez, Subway Therapy. Courtesy of Matthew "Levee" Chavez, via Instagram.

In the aftermath of the election of President Donald Trump, New Yorkers came together for Subway Therapy, hanging Post-It notes expressing their frustrations, hopes, fears, and anger in New York subways stations. The participatory art installation returned August 24, this time in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist rally.

Subway Therapy is the brainchild of artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez, who set up shop in the subway on November 9, the day after Trump’s victory, with a folding table, a stack of Post-Its, and a sign inviting straphangers to express themselves.

“My intention with this project is to get people to write from their heart and their mind,” Chavez told Gothamist of bringing the project back to the New York underground. “But it’s also a chance to see how other people are reacting, so that we can all connect in this struggling time.”

Matthew "Levee" Chavez, <em>Subway Therapy</em>. Courtesy of Matthew "Levee" Chavez, via Instagram.

Matthew “Levee” Chavez, Subway Therapy. Courtesy of Matthew “Levee” Chavez, via Instagram.

The original piece resonated with New Yorkers, who overwhelmingly voted for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. (She received 79 percent of the popular vote in the city.) Thousands participated, and the colorful array of messages soon spread to other stations in Manhattan.

By December, Governor Andrew Cuomo had announced plans to preserve the Post-Its, which are now part of the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

In the months since the original project’s deinstallation, Chavez has staged versions of Subway Therapy in Brussels, in March, and in Malmö, Sweden, earlier this month.

Last weekend, the artwork returned to New York, once again filling the subway tunnel at 14th Street between the F/M trains on 6th Avenue and the 2/3 on 7th.

“I was out of the country when I heard about the violence in Charlottesville, but now that I’m back in New York I want to do my part to encourage conversation and give people a chance to express themselves and reflect,” wrote Chavez on Instagram, announcing the new iteration of the art project.

At the end of the weekend, he collected the messages written by participants, which he plans to show on the Subway Therapy website in the future.

“I haven’t had a chance to count them, but there are between 800 and 1,000 individual hand written letters and messages,” he told artnet News in an email of the project’s Charlottesville edition. “If you count reading notes or having a conversation with me as participation well over 10,000 people were directly involved in some way, and I can’t begin to imagine how many people may have seen pictures on the news or social media.”

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