Museum unveils sculpture in honor of Clementi
Rutgers students read and wrote letters to their former selves yesterday at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. One of the readings was “Letters to My Brother” by James Clementi, older brother of Tyler Clementi.
Tyler Clementi, a victim of cyberbullying, committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him.
The Trevor Project joined with The Tyler Clementi Center yesterday to host “The Letter Q at R.U.,” where students shared notes written to their former selves.
After the readings, the museum presented a sculpture that was donated in honor of The Trevor Project and in memory of Tyler Clementi.
Esther David, a workshop participant, said hearing everyone speak was an emotional process. She realized at the end of the day that everyone is human with issues they all struggle to deal with.
“I felt like it was a healing process while we were there to just get it out,” said David, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “It wasn’t easy to write the letter, but the hardest part was to read it out loud and share it with everyone else.”
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, said John Lescene, a cofounder of the project.
The project has a telephone lifeline, but it also has a big online presence called TrevorChat, he said, which allows people to talk to counselors online.
He said The Trevor Project also offers TrevorText for emergencies as well as TrevorSpace, an online destination for peer-to-peer support.
The Trevor Project held an auction where Michael Sodomick, a supporter of The Trevor Project, donated the “Rivera Blue Macchia Chartreuse Lip Wrap,” a Dale Chihuly sculpture from 2007, Lescene said.
Sodomick told Lecsene he wanted to do something with the sculpture other than keep it in his house. Sodomick decided he wanted to make a gift of it in honor of the Trevor Project.
Lescene said he did research and found the Zimmerli Art Museum, which has one of the premier glass art collections. This was around the time of the Tyler Clementi suicide, so he thought the Zimmerli and the Tyler Clementi Center might be doing the same work as the Trevor Project.
“So we thought, ‘Well, why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do it in memory of Tyler Clementi to honor The Trevor Project?’” Lescene said. “And since we’re doing the same work, trying to make it better for LGBTQ teens, it just seemed like a great opportunity for us to join forces together.”
Rick Lee, the associate director of the Tyler Clementi Center, said he has been involved with the Tyler Project since 2006 and is good friends with Lescene.
“So when [James Lescene] approached me about this gift that his friend had purchased and wanted to donate to Rutgers, we made it work with the Zimmerili Art Museum,” Lee said.
Lee said they wanted to tie the sculpture to his involvement with the Trevor Project and with the Tyler Clementi Center that had just been established.
He knew Lescene had already published the collection “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves.” So they connected the workshop along with the dedication of the Chihuly sculpture in order to make the event, Lee said.
Lescene said he and Sarah Moon are the contributing editors of the “The Letter Q.”
“‘The Letter Q’ is a book containing letters from 63 queer writers,” he said. “We were so moved by the things that these writers wanted to say to there younger selves. Part of the book’s proceeds went to the Trevor Project.”
It was a way of passing along information but also advice without sounding like they were talking down to kids, he said. It was a way of actually sharing their experience and giving them some helpful tools.
He said the book was Moon’s idea, and contemplating how moving all the letters were inspired him to start the writing workshops.
Lescene really took a chance and did a workshop last year, he said. He wondered if high school kids were capable of writing letters and was moved by what they already knew.
“They were writing letters to their eight- or nine-year-old selves about all sorts of things,” he said. “Like there was a group of girls who was having issues with cutting, kids who where having issues in terms of gender identity.”
They just wanted to tell themselves it was going to be okay, he said, and no matter how hard it got, it was going to be really fine on the other side.
“And you know what the Tyler Clementi Center is trying to do is to make it easier for that transition from high school to college, so it seemed like a good format,” Lescene said.
David said a lot of students might come to Rutgers and find it hard to adjust and find a place where they feel comfortable and safe enough to express themselves.
“I think the Tyler Clementi Center provides that for a lot of students,” David said. “I just wish that more students knew about it.”