“Community. Inclusion. Peaceful expression.” Those are the words emblazoned on “Subway Therapist” Matthew “Levee” Chavez’s website — and those words also describe the mission of Hendersonville’s new Center for Art and Inspiration, opening this month.
In the spirit of Chavez’s work in Manhattan, Main Street is getting a subway stop. Inside the Center, people purchasing tickets at the box office — made of actual boxes — will mingle with those who may be there to grab a cup of coffee, choose a book at a new outpost of Malaprop’s Bookstore, or leave a message on the subway wall.
At the facility’s grand opening on February 23, Chavez, artist and founder of the Subway Therapy movement, will write the first note to grace the Center’s newly tiled white wall in their coffee shop. For more than two years, he’s invited all who come across his path to leave messages on sticky notes, blanketing public spaces with people’s thoughts, hopes, and fears for America and for themselves.
“I don’t understand, but I will try. We need each other.” That’s a note Chavez says he’ll always remember. “It’s amazing how simple messages like that can resonate long after the writer walks away,” he says. Chavez started heading to the subway with stacks of sticky notes in 2016 and didn’t know, at the time, how important his work would become — both for those contributing to the movement and those absorbing the messages. Since then, the concept has gone viral, he’s written two books, and he’s set up subway walls across the world, including in Houston after Hurricane Harvey and in Brussels to mark the anniversary of the 2016 bombings. “Even amidst strikingly different contexts,” he says, “I often find notes that are similar. They are usually ones that express love and support.”
Chavez’s community-uniting endeavor seems particularly fitting for the Center, which founder Jeanie Linders says will be “a whole immersive experience.” Interactive events, including mystery theater, storytelling, and stand-up-comedy classes, will fill the roster. The Center’s visual-art classes “aim to give people an opportunity to learn art without feeling intimidated,” Linders says. “It’s art for people who didn’t know they were artists.”
Chavez, too, is passionate about breaking down people’s fears around making art, declaring that it only takes “three simple ingredients — curiosity, creativity, and courage — to make your mark.”
The Center for Art & Inspiration’s grand opening happens 10am-4pm on Saturday, Feb. 23. Matthew “Levee” Chavez will place the first sticky note on the Center’s wall and will discuss and sign his newest book, Art in Action: Make a Statement, Change Your World. 123 South Main St., Hendersonville. For more information, call 828-697-8547 or see thecenterai.com.