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Guide to the Subway Therapy Collection
2016
 MS 3025

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 19, 2017 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Chavez, Matthew, (Levee)
Title: Subway Therapy collection
Dates: 2016
Abstract: The collection includes about 5,600 of the approximately 20,000 sticky notes from artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez’s work Subway Therapy. The work was initiated by Chavez on 9 November 2016 and it ended on 16 December 2016. The work consisted of notes posted by individuals to the wall of the New York City subway station at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, expressing their emotions in response to the U.S. presidential election held on 8 November 2016, won by Donald J. Trump.
Quantity: 1.0 Linear feet in one record carton
Mixed materials [Box]: 1
Call Phrase: MS 3025

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Biographical/Historical Note

On Tuesday, 8 November 2016, Americans elected the Republican Party candidate, Donald J. Trump, to succeed Barack Obama as President of the United States. Trump’s victory over Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton was a surprise, even a severe disappointment, for many Americans, including for residents of New York City who had voted heavily in favor of Clinton.

On the day after the election, artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez initiated a project by which New Yorkers could express their emotions about the election result. He took sticky notes (e.g., Post-its) and pens into the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s subway station at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street, and posted the invitation to“Express Yourself” on the tiled walls. On that day and for weeks after, thousands of people did express themselves on the small sticky notes, eventually filling long ranges of the subway station wall, stretching to Union Square.

By mid-December, the initial impulse for the project had run its course and the size of the constantly growing work had made it unsustainable at a major transportation point. Consequently, the artist chose to end the project, removing about 20,000 notes on 16 December 2016. In doing so, by prior arrangement he worked with New-York Historical Society conservator Alan Balicki to preserve about 5,000 of the notes for donation to N-YHS.

For more information, see the artist’s website: www.subwaytherapy.com, which includes links to the press coverage about the project.

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Scope and Contents Note

The Subway Therapy collection includes about 5,600 of the approximately 20,000 sticky notes posted in the Sixth Avenue at 14th Street subway station between 9 November and 16 December 2016 in connection with artist Matthew "Levee" Chavez's work  Subway Therapy. The bulk of the notes came from one section of the wall, which the artist identified to the N-YHS conservator removing the slips as one of the earliest sections to be posted. A small number of other notes along the wall were individually selected for inclusion by a N-YHS museum curator.

Arrangement Note

There is no particular arrangement to the sticky notes, that is, how they are found in the container does not necessarily reflect their original relationship to one another on the subway wall.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Chavez, Matthew, (Levee)

Subject Topics

  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 2016
  • Public opinion
  • Sticky notes
  • Street art

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers. Special handling instructions are found in the collection container. N-YHS also holds two other, similar collections of sticky notes (see Related Materials Note); to ensure that the contents are not accidentally mixed, only one of the collections may be presented to a patron at any one time.

Use Restrictions

There are conditions on the use of the collection, including photographic reproductions, as defined by the agreement between N-YHS and the donor/artist. The curatorial staff should be consulted prior to any photographic, reproduction, exhibition, or other use of the collection, including the taking of photographs by patrons.

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be credited as follows: Subway Therapy concept and curation by Matthew "Levee" Chavez, www.subwaytherapy.com (MS 3025, New-York Historical Society).

Related Archival Materials Note

As a follow-on to Matthew Chavez’s Subway Therapy project and to his donation of a portion of the work to New-York Historical, N-YHS implemented a similar project on its front glass wall, titled  Messages for the President-Elect. Those sticky notes are available; see call number MS 3027.

Chavez’s work inspired similar projects in other parts of the country. One such project was implemented by the third grade of the Brooklyn Friends School. N-YHS holds that collection as well; see call number MS 3026.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Donated by the artist, Matthew "Levee" Chavez, in December 2016.

Processing Information Note

The individual sticky notes/Post-its that make up the collection were housed on plastic sheets and in archival trays by conservator Alan Balicki in April 2017. The descriptive finding aid was prepared by archivist Larry Weimer in April 2017.

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