For many New Yorkers a crowded subway car would be the last place to look for romance. But the New York Transit Museum has a different opinion and plans to celebrate finding love on mass transportation with a “Missed Connection,” its second annual Love-in-Transit party on Valentine’s Day.
Inspired by the popular Craigslist forum “Missed Connections,” where users post about brief encounters with strangers hoping to reconnect, the event will feature work based on these stories from different artists, writers and musicians. Although the museum won’t replicate the experience of sharing a look across a crowded F train, Marcia Ely, of the New York Transit Museum, said the party will celebrate mass transit’s unique ability to bring people together.
“This night is really about being a New Yorker [and] really what happens in that space that we all know so well,” said Ely. “[It’s] kind of public and full of all sorts of people. That’s the subject of our museum.”
To help with the festivities, the museum, located in downtown Brooklyn, has brought in illustrator Sophie Blackall. The Brooklyn-based artist will show work from her acclaimed book, “Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found,” which features Blackall’s interpretations of “Missed Connection” posts.
Illustrating posts with titles such as “Girl on the Golden Swan Bike” or “Owl Lady in the Red Dress,” Blackall portrays these chance meetings as whimsical and colorful, where even two lonely coats can have a moment on the train.
Originally an illustrator of children’s books, Blackall said she found the Craigslist forum thanks to her own missed connection with a handsome stranger on the subway.
“He mouthed ‘Missed Connections’ at me through the [subway] window,” recalled Blackall. “So I went and looked and saw what it was and was completely sucked into it.”
While she never reconnected with her mystery man, Blackall started a blog featuring her “Missed Connection” illustrations and drew in new fans. Some readers even sent her their own stories hoping she would illustrate them. Eventually Blackall’s work culminated in a book, which was released last fall.
While Blackall originally hails from Australia, she finds that it’s New York City as much as Craigslist that provides her with a wealth of material.
“It’s the perfect city for this to happen,” said Blackall. “We’re always finding ourselves crashed together.” But she admitted that not all the stories she finds are appropriate for illustration.
“For every kind of charming delightful [post], there are 18 [posts about] used boxer shorts,” said Blackall.
Since many of her “Missed Connection” illustrations were set in the world of mass transit, Blackall was one of two artists asked by the MTA Arts in Transit program to create a poster for the subways in 2012. The image shows an impossibly long subway car populated with a variety of New Yorkers, each having his or her very own missed connection.
“All those years of watching and recording, it paid off in one big picture,” said Blackall. The poster will be displayed in many subway cars throughout the year.
Since the Love-in-Transit party at the museum will only have stationary subway cars, Blackall is hopeful people will make a few actual connections. “It’s a fun idea to meet up there and not really go anywhere,” said Blackall. “You can explore old subway cars.”
The Love-in-Transit party will run from 6 to 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. In addition to Blackall, the event will feature New York Times reporter Alan Feuer, who will read poems based on “Missed Connections.” The music will be provided by MTA Arts in Transit band, You Bred Raptors?
Describing the music as a cross between classical and heavy metal, the drummer of You Bred Raptors?, Zach Schmidlin said playing at an event with a “Missed Connections” theme brings him full circle from his single days.
“I was convinced every girl on the train was my wife,” said Schmidlin, on his own missed connections. “I definitely thought what if.”