Write Now exhibit at Westbeth makes the post-it note fad high-brow
A new interactive art installation looks like a rip-off on the subway post-it note phenomenon, but it's actually honoring it.
A West Village exhibit is taking a page from the fluttering layers of post-it notes scrawled with messages of hope and frustration that have cropped up in underground passageways around the city since the election.
The "Write Now" exhibit is adopting the zeitgeist — this apparent need among New Yorkers to both purposefully express their feelings and strengthen a sense of community — and is taking it a step further. It’s recognizing the post-it note trend as a very organic form of public art.
“The one we have here is different because we ask for very poignant questions that help lead people through this feeling of what are we going to do? What now?” George Cominskie, president of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council, told Metro.
The exhibit at Westbeth (New York's oldest artist-only housing complex and where many famous New York artists have lived), which opened on Saturday and continues until Dec. 31, consists of four rooms. In each one visitors are asked to respond to specific questions. In room one, posts are related to the question “What do you want the world to take into 2017?” The next room poses the question: “What do you want the world to leave behind in 2016?”
The next two rooms are similar questions on a personal level: “What do you want to leave behind in 2016?” and “What do you want to take with you into 2017?”
“You see people actually become very pensive. Rather than just say, I’m nervous or I’m upset, this pinpoints exactly what the feeling is and tries to address the thing bothering you,” Cominskie said.
The originator of the subway post-it note concept, and the notion of “subway therapy,” Matthew Levee Chavez, was present at the exhibit’s opening night, providing his therapeutic conversation at a small table with chairs as he does on the train platform.
Cominskie got the idea while preparing for Westbeth’s annual December exhibit that has for more than 30 years consisted of artworks by the artists in residence. As he was collaborating with Karin Batten, the chair of the visual arts committee, he mentioned that he sees and hears and feels a lot of angst from people in the building, and suggested appropriating the post-it note method for their show.
Batten was struck by the idea and insisted “we have to do this now.”
The project took some unexpected turns on its opening night; many made drawings, while others started to create a collage with the colorful papers. Many people came with children, Cominskie noted, and the kids' thoughts remained only a quarter of the way up the wall, while the parents' feelings floated higher.
Visitors could also opt to donate to their choice of selected charities that will help communities that may be adversely impacted in the near future, such as the Ally Forney Center for LGBT homeless youth, Planned Parenthood of New York, God’s Love We Deliver, which delivers meals to those homebound by illnesses, and the Cabrini Immigrant Services.
“We’re very curious to see where this ends up. We want to save them and do something with them in the future, and now we’re looking at collaborating with a playwright using the 2017 post-its,” Cominskie said.