In my NYC therapy office, so many of my patients continue to express dismay, horror, and fear over the racism and bigotry that has boiled over in our country. Most recently, the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has left so many asking what to do with their feelings and how they can possibly make a positive difference.
New Yorkers were fortunate enough to get some therapy around the incident, or rather, some “Subway Therapy.” Artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez set up tables with Post-its and pencils at the 14th Street Subway station in Manhattan right after the Charlottesville incident, allowing any passersby to leave a message and express their feelings and reactions. These Post-its were displayed all together and totaled between 800 and 1,000.
Chavez had a similar art installation after Donald Trump was elected president in which he encouraged people to express their thoughts, fears, and messages of hope. Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to preserve the “Subway Therapy” Post-its and Chavez has created a website and Instagram handle dedicated to the project: @subwaytherapy.
“Subway Therapy” is a prime example of community art therapy at its best. The directive that Chavez offered participants was simple and accessible–not in the least intimidating for this broad audience. Those that did not decide to physically participate through use of a Post-it were still able to benefit and engage with the piece by seeing the messages and images of others.
Perhaps most importantly, “Subway Therapy” facilitated a feeling of unity and togetherness, which is therapeutic in itself. It’s easy enough to lose a sense of humanity in NYC on any given day, rushing from one place to another. Incidents like those in Charlottesville only serve to amplify these feelings of isolation, as bigotry perpetuates division and separateness. Community art therapy like “Subway Therapy” slowed New Yorkers down and helped them connect with the compassion and hope of others.