As the shock of the Presidential election result was still stark, raw and new, 28-year-old Brooklyn artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez made a decision to craft a positive response amidst all the panic and dejection. He set up a table with post-it notes and markers in the New York City subway underpass at 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, offering anyone who passed by to unload their anger, fear, dismay…whatever
He labeled it, simply, “Subway Therapy.”
The heartfelt artistic gesture garnered national attention, with major stories in the likes of the New York Times and USA Today. It also turned the previously unknown Chavez into something of a hero, at least for those who didn’t pull the lever for Donald J. Trump on November 8th.
It landed him a major two-book deal – Bloomsbury will publish Signs of Hope: Messages From Subway Therapy for an October release. In the meantime, the exciting new art streaming app Loupe has launched an eponymous channel – so that said “therapy” will be available to all who seek it out.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Matthew,” says Managing Partner Karrie Goldberg, “and showcase his inspirational work via Loupe’s streaming Guest Curated Channel.”
The works being streamed will also be available for purchase as prints for the first time anywhere. And a portion of the proceeds will go to Women in Need. “Owning a print from one of the various ‘Subway Therapy’ messages,” Goldberg explains, “allows the viewer to have a piece of a moment in time, embracing the Signs of Hope from real people.”
We caught up with Chavez himself to discuss inspiration, art as education and making art as available to all as possible.
Obviously Trump’s election was the catalyst – but what actually inspired you to create the original Subway Therapy wall?
For almost a year before the election I was setting up a table and two chairs for Subway Therapy, but my original goal was conversation. I was curious to explore how people felt better about the things they feel bad about. I am lucky to have family and friends to talk to when I’m not feeling so great, but even so it’s nice to have a stranger to talk to from time to time. I talked with individuals on subway platforms all over New York and after the election I didn’t think I would be able to reach enough people. I decided to bring writing materials into the subway and simply wrote “express yourself” on the wall behind me. I wanted to give people an opportunity to connect to each other in a divided time, and the response was overwhelming.
Had you ever before considered art as having therapeutic qualities?
I have always thought art had therapeutic qualities. As a former educator I used art as a tool to benefit the lives of students in a variety of different ways. While art can be relaxing to experience, it can be meditative or therapeutic to create.
Was the response both positive and negative to Subway Therapy?
For the most part the response to Subway Therapy was positive. I’m sure some commuters were annoyed by an increase in congestion created by the buzz and popularity of the project; but for the most part I only talked to people who were happy to have something beautiful to look at during their commute.
What attracted you to working with Loupe?
It’s hard to connect to different communities underground. I think working with Loupe gives me an opportunity to reach a broader audience. I would like to see my work benefit the communities that helped to create it, and Loupe is a way to show more people this incredible experience, and give back by donating some of the proceeds to charity.
How does the collaboration with Loupe further the Subway Therapy mission and message?
I want to help people, and working with Loupe helps individuals to get the Subway Therapy experience in their own homes. My hope is that people will see the channel on Loupe, and feel more connected to people in their community and around the world.
Do you see the Loupe concept of the readily available streaming of art as helping to make art more accessible to more people?
I think any service that allows people to view art helps art to be more visible.