Artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez has been offering Subway Therapy for the last six months. Essentially he sets up a little table and chairs in different subway stations throughout New York and welcomes people to share anything that’s on their minds. He’s not a licensed therapist. He listens to people and lets them get whatever they want off their chests. After the election result on Tuesday, he knew people would have a lot to say. So he bought a stack of brightly colored post-it notes, set up his table in the tunnel which connects the 14th St. Subway stations between Seventh Avenue and Avenue of the Americas and let people start writing. And they did. Over 2000 post-it notes. Here are some of the messages:
“I really want the US to be my safe space.”
“Immigrants make America great.”
“Never give up fighting for what is right.”
“The future still is female.”
The post-it notes enabled people to express their feelings and emotions without anyone telling them otherwise. Collectively, the notes form an installation, giving us, the viewers, a point of view, a commentary and a context. That’s what art is. That’s what art can be. That’s what art should do.
Now, more so than ever, art has an important role to play in the social, environmental and political landscape. At The Road Gallery we strongly believe in the power of art and artistic expression to provoke important questions, create dialogue and inform the debate. Furthermore, we are big advocates of art’s capacity to heal, mend and soothe. Without saying a word, art can build empathy and understanding and break down walls between seemingly opposing forces.
This election has exposed deep, complex divides in the US and the future looks very uncertain. To many it looks downright scary. This quote by Martin Luther King Jr. sums up our position and belief for what it will take to move forward and start to heal these divides:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
To achieve this, we need dialogue, understanding and empathy built on a non-negotiable foundation of equal rights for all. And all has to mean all, without exception. There is no picking and choosing who is more deserving of their rights. We cannot move backwards from the progress we have made. We have to move forward.
All the arts have an important role to play here. Big progress and innovation often come from working across different disciplines, rather than from beavering away within in a single discipline. For example, in my other world of business psychology, we are seeing some of the most exciting advances in the field of leadership emerging out of neuroscience. Similarly, the arts need to step up to make their contribution to advances in democracy, social justice and politics.
We have been waiting for the right time to expand the gallery’s portfolio in this direction. Following the unprecedented Presidential election we have just witnessed in the United States, now is that time.
We are seeking US based artists whose work conveys a clear, fresh point of view on modern day social or global issues. We are looking for artists with a voice and a perspective. Artists who have something to say. Artists whose work can help inspire action, can bring communities together, can create a common vision and can make us confront issues we have been avoiding. Art has the ability to do these things in ways that the written word and conversations alone cannot.
Currently, we have an open call for submissions at NYFA, the New York Foundation for the Arts, which runs until December 9th, 2016. Artists whose work fits this profile are invited to submit up to 10 images of their work and/or a link to their work, in addition to their biography and artist statement. If not described in their artist statement, artists should submit additional commentary describing the specific social context of their work. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we can only respond to those artists we are interested in representing.