Kevin’s photos: D.C. Metro honors late Trumbull resident with Art in Transit exhibit
Kevin Sutherland’s passion for photography lives on in the Washington, D.C., Metro station where the Trumbull native ended up last July 4th.
As part of the Metro’s Art in Transit project, a collage of Sutherland's photography entitled: D.C. Through The Lens Of Kevin Sutherland, featuring 9 photos of the nation’s capital that he captured during his time as an American University undergraduate, will be displayed at the NoMa-Gallaudet University stop this summer to memorialize the 24-year-old victim who was fatally stabbed inside a train as it was heading toward the station.
Days before the one-year anniversary of Sutherland’s death, Metro officials — with the support of the Council of the District of Columbia — installed the photo wrappings on concrete columns to the surprise of Kevin’s parents, Douglas and Theresa Sutherland, and friends.
“We never thought that the Metro would go for this because it’s such a bad memory,” Doug told The Times on July 5, the day after he and his wife hosted 11 of Kevin’s friends at their Trumbull home on the one-year anniversary of their son’s death.
One of those friends was Brad Korten, who helped push the idea of sharing Kevin’s love for photography — and Washington, D.C. — up the legislative ladder until it reached Councilman Jack Evans, the longest-serving lawmaker on the legislative body and a two-time mayoral candidate.
Evans immediately backed the project and set forth a July 1 mandate for the collages to be on display. They were installed on June 30.
“The goal was to get it up before the holiday weekend — before the anniversary,” Korten explained to The Times. “I was shocked to see how fast it went up …
“I’m very surprised but very pleased by the response,” he added. “They heard the proposal and basically responded by saying, ‘Get us the photos.’ It ended up only taking a month.”
Doug accumulated around 20 to 25 of his son’s photos, including images of the U.S. Capitol — Kevin’s favorite building — and the unique ceilings of the District’s Metro stations.
Also submitted to the Art in Transit coordinators were pictures of the monuments, most notably the Washington Monument against a backdrop of fireworks.
“When we got home from a postponed trial hearing [of Kevin’s accused murderer Jasper Spires, 19] in mid-June, they called us right away,” Doug said. “They had found some of his pictures on social media so there was some overlap but they asked us what we had in mind and there was collaboration on what it would look like; they showed us the concept and we approved it and they sent it up to the printers ...
“We thought it would take weeks and months to figure it out, but the city council really wanted to do it,” he added.
Early bird catches the...sunrise
Korten’s favorite of the collection is the image of the Jefferson Memorial at sunset that Kevin captured early one morning.
“You can’t really tell if it’s sunset or sunrise, and that’s what makes that photo particularly beautiful,” said the 25-year-old friend, who works on Capitol Hill and hangs a copy of the photo in his D.C. apartment. “I know Kevin liked to get up early to take photos and a lot of his morning shots near the tidal basin are absolutely breathtaking.
“The colors in that photo of the Jefferson Memorial — the oranges, the yellows, the purples — really capture the majesty of the monument and this city,” he added. “It’s an amazing place and Kevin’s photos captured that sense of awe and wonder.”
It wasn’t just the Jefferson Memorial that Kevin captured with his lens.
His college friend said that he had an eye for encapsulating “the foundation of Democracy” in his pictures of the U.S. Capitol building and the World War II Memorial.
“His artwork is still impressive because it’s the essence of beauty of the city he loved so dearly,” Korten said. “It brings a smile to my face looking at it.”
The pair met when they were freshman at American University. They quickly bonded over shared passion for politics and the New York Yankees.
Korten said his late friend was “unlike anybody I’ve ever met” because he was caring, giving and insightful.
“To lose someone like that at such a young age, especially over something so senseless, is devastating,” he added of Kevin, who was working at New Blue Interactive at the time of his death.
“We just want his spirit and legacy to live on in several ways, and one of those ways is definitely to display his collection of brilliant photos.”
‘Hardest day in our lives’
The memory of Kevin’s loss is still very fresh among friends, as well as the Sutherlands.
Korten acknowledged that the Fourth of July weekend in Connecticut, which was spent going to a nearby winery and a Bridgeport Bluefish baseball game, was very difficult.
“Kevin moved a lot of people down here,” he said.
“We all knew this day would come,” he added, addressing the anniversary. “And what was most difficult about it was that it was a reminder of one of the hardest times in our lives and how a special life has been taken from everyone who knew him.”
Sutherland’s killer, Spires, has been indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the brutal stabbing, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips announced in May.
Spires, a Washington, D.C., native who was 18 years old at the time of the incident, rejected a plea deal on April 8 that would have resulted in a 30-year sentence with no probation. His trial is set to begin sometime next year.
Korten said being in Connecticut with the Sutherlands over the holiday helped him get over the emotional weight of the day.
“We were there to help them and help ourselves,” he explained. “We bonded over our lost friend and remembered him and keep his spirit alive.”
Memorial fund and legacy project
Both the Sutherlands and Korten plan on visiting the memorial some time this summer, if possible.
The Sutherlands are lobbying for it to be on display as long as possible, although they know their son’s name and work will always be remembered on the American University campus, thanks to its Student Government’s Executive Office being dedicated as the Kevin J. Sutherland Executive Office during a special ceremony last summer.
Additionally, the School of Public Affairs at American University has put up photos that were taken by Kevin that are being sold, with proceeds going to the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Fund.
“Between the memorial service in late August, the plaque dedication ceremony that same weekend, and the banquet in December, it’s been a very busy year,” said Doug, who is currently traveling in the southwest United States with his wife.
“We really want to see the display in person so I hope they keep it up until we get back and we can get there some time in August,” he added. “I know this is one of their first attempts with the photos down in the stations so we’re hoping the Art in Transit project is successful and that we can continue to collaborate with them and put up Kevin’s artwork elsewhere in the city.”
Korten said he would like to see his late friend’s work displayed in galleries that benefit the foundation that’s been set up in his name.
“I know Congressman Jim Himes [for whom Kevin interned as undergraduate in February 2012] has the photo of the Capitol hanging in his office, so we’re getting there slowly,” he added. “Photography is one of the best ways to remember him because it’s visual and it’s something tangible.
“Kevin was such a great person with so much to offer and we believe he still has a lot to offer.”
For more of Kevin Sutherland’s photography, go to https://www.flicker.com/photos/kjsutherland/.
For more information on the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Kevin Sutherland Internship Fund, go to http://bit.ly/HonoringKevin.
Additionally, those interested in the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Legacy Project, which will carry on the work Kevin cared about — fighting prejudice, fight for equality, fighting poverty, fighting for justice, protecting our environment, and simply striving for a more perfect union — can go to www.kjslegacyproject.org.