Like pastel petals vining up a garden wall, little pieces of paper with messages of hope, tolerance — and distress, too — are spreading through the transit system, and around the country, as a form of therapeutic expression in the aftermath of the presidential election.
“Subway Therapy” started with Brooklyn actor Matthew “Levee” Chavez’s fantasy of setting up a table and chairs in New York City for simple conversation; six months ago the idea evolved into his “Secret Keeper” table where passersby could anonymously confess something in a notebook. And although he clearly states that he is not a licensed therapist, so many people referred to what he was doing as therapy that he rebranded and began hearing people out.
Then, as a city of Hillary Clinton supporters mourned the outcome of the election, Chavez adjusted his concept again.
“When I went out on Wednesday, I brought the Secret Keeper notebook with the idea that I would hang the little papers on the wall. And when I was at the store figuring out how I would attach them, I saw a bunch of Post-its,” Chavez told Metro. He was instantly reminded of a Valentine's Day when he and his mom filled his father’s hospital room with messages on Post-its cut into hearts.
Chavez launched his project at the West 14th Street and Sixth Avenue subway station, where he collected and saved the notes each night. Soon, a wall of Post-it hopes cropped up a few blocks away in the Union Square station.
“It’s like when you plant a garden and then the seeds spread and grow and you didn’t even know where they were,” Chavez said. Similar walls have sprung up at the Hunter College subway stop as well as Atlantic Terminal, which reportedly have now been cleared away.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo added his note last week to the Union Square station.
“What I like about Union Square is that I didn’t do any curating, didn’t encourage it myself," Chavez said. "And it ended up being two different locations and feelings, and I love that feeling there. It’s overwhelming, it’s visually stunning and it’s amazing its stayed up.”
One admirer at the Union Square wall said it reaffirmed her love of the city. “New Yorkers get it right every time," said Julie Bold. "I feel sad for Florida, they messed up, but New York knows what it’s doing. To see this, it brings hope back into my heart.”
Paul Monar said “It makes me feel better to see that people haven’t given in to the hate.”
Chavez said that he will carry on the Post-it note project for the unforeseeable future.
Messages at Union Square run the gamut of emotions: From "Trump, this is the wall you will never build!" to "In unity we find serenity, in knowing our love is one-size fits all," and "Love is love is love."
As for the haters, Chavez said that of the 12,000 notes he’s archived there have only been about 10 that were truly offensive, vulgar or hateful.
“For me, I am going to take this opportunity since I have the attention to make this my career to help people to build projects that help their community,” Chavez said adding that he is thinking about the importance of art therapy. “To help people heal and go on and do great things. That’s my mission."