On subway platforms and busy sidewalks, a handful of creative people are drawing out fellow city dwellers and challenging them to do something simple but increasingly unusual: look up from their phones and connect.
Date While You Wait “The idea was simple, sit in a subway station and talk to people,” says Charles Knox on his website. Despite the project's name, Knox isn’t really looking for love, he says, just a way to spice up commute traffic. He sets up a small table on a subway platform in New York with a flower in a Coke bottle and a board game—say, Connect 4—and waits for someone to join him. As a result, he says, he’s gotten to meet and share stories with people of all ages and nationalities. The project, begun a year ago this June, has drawn thousands of followers on social media, where Knox now broadcasts to fans when and where he’ll be popping up. The concept is infectious, he says: ”People from all over the world have reached out asking to run their own.”
Date While You Wait in the NYC Subway Date While You Wait in the NYC Subway
League of Creative Interventionists The group, led by San Francisco-based artistic director Hunter Franks, calls its work public art. But its projects are also, more often than not, a way to get people to pause and share stories. Its neighborhood postcard project captures positive tales from underrepresented communities around the world and mails them to random people in nearby neighborhoods. And in San Francisco, the league created a “fix your fears booth,” inviting people share their qualms and offering tailored, typed “prescriptions” for handling them.
Sidewalk Talk Two San Francisco psychotherapists set up chairs on the city’s sidewalks in May 2015, “offering to listen to any passerby who wanted to be seen and heard if only for a few minutes.” People took them up on it, and today Sidewalk Talk is offering “community listening” through volunteers in six U.S. cities. The founders, Lily Sloane and Traci Ruble, say that more than 100 people have been referred to mental health services in their town. Ruble told The Washington Post, “I have a fundamental belief that we are all responsible for each other’s mental health … This is not therapy on the streets; this is taking one of its biggest tools and bringing it out to the masses. I’m trying to keep the message simple: It’s about listening and belonging.”