“This project really showed me that people are willing – not just in New York – but in the world and in the media to really focus on something that’s positive, that’s about progress.” – Matthew “Levee” Chavez
In the packed New York City subway tunnel at 14th Street, artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez is calmly sitting at a table piled with post-its and pens, the walls behind him covered with scribbled messages of hope. “Keep your head up; keep your heart strong,” says one. “We must be scared before we can be brave,” proclaims another.
New Yorkers are stressed out, and artist Matthew Chavez – who goes by the pseudonym “Levee” – is hoping to relieve us of some of that post-election frustration.
For the past six months, he’s set up shop in various subway stations with his post-its and pens in a public art project called Subway Therapy, offering a space for stressed out New Yorkers to vent their feelings. And when this art installation happened to coincide with the stress of the recent election, New Yorkers began showing up in the thousands to write down their hopes, fears, and anxieties, quickly filling up the appropriately-sized tiles of the subway station walls with pastel-colored sticky notes. (Even New York Governor Cuomo dropped by to leave his own message.) If you want to talk, Levee’s there to hear your thoughts in person. “I’m really lucky that I have family and friends that I can lean on,” he says, “So I’m going to be here so that people can lean on me when they need to. ”
With Subway Therapy, Levee’s hoping to encourage people to express themselves in a peaceful and inclusive way, whether it’s about post-election stress or otherwise. “This project really showed me that people are willing – not just in New York – but in the world and in the media to really focus on something that’s positive, that’s about progress,” he says. “I’m going to keep being here, doing the work that I’ve been doing, which is about encouraging people to take action.”
As crowds of commuters start to gather to look at the Subway Therapy wall, blocking the grumbling passersby, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn Levee’s wall of post-its. Writing down your thoughts on a post-it might be therapeutic on its own, but the feeling of posting up these thoughts in solidarity with thousands of others – that’s what makes Subway Therapy a beautiful project.