As the Electoral College prepares to cast their votes December 19, a popular art project responding to the election is getting a second life.
After the unexpected victory of president-elect Donald Trump, the mood in New York, where more than 80 percent of voters did not support the Republican candidate, was decidedly somber. In the days that followed, Subway Therapy, a communal art project in which strap-hangers wrote messages on colorful Post-it notes, offered a chance for emotional catharsis at one of the city’s main subway stations.
The brainchild of artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez, Subway Therapy began November 9, in the 14th Street tunnel between the 2/3 and F/M stops. About 2,000 people responded to his call to “express yourself”, and the project soon expanded to Union Square.
“We’re going to preserve the Union Square sticky notes,” tweeted Governor Andrew Cuomo on December 16, “because we will remember this as the moment New Yorkers united in such a moving way.”
Thanks to the MTA and Cuomo, the many messages are being archived at the New-York Historical Society. If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the art piece before its deinstallation, you’ll get another chance at the Historical Society, where, from December 20 through Inauguration Day on January 20, 2017, visitors can add to a sticky note wall in the museum lobby.
“Over the last six weeks, New Yorkers have proved that we will not let fear and division define us,” the governor said in a statement, calling Subway Therapy “a powerful symbol that shows how New Yorkers of all ages, races and religions came together to say we are one family, one community and we will not be torn apart.”
The project was intended as an open forum that would give New Yorkers a chance to express themselves. Although there were inevitably a few pro-Trump messages, it was more common to read notes celebrating New York’s diversity and denouncing the hatred that many felt characterized Trump’s campaign. “It doesn’t end today,” one note reminded viewers.
“I’m sad the sticky notes at Union Square are no longer there, but I’m happy they were allowed to stay as long as they did,” wrote Chavez on Instagram on December 18. “I had some amazing experiences, and great conversations. I met so many wonderful people. Keep in mind the wall at Union Square was not the beginning of Subway Therapy, and the preservation of the notes there is hardly the end.”
Cuomo himself contributed to the Union Square installation, quoting Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty poem “The New Colossus” and writing “New York State holds the torch high! – Andrew C.”
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