Monday, September 17, 2007

Carolyn Tennant





Mr. Jeffrey Hoone
Executive Director
CMAC


September 17, 2007
Dear Mr. Hoone,

My name is Carolyn Tennant, and I am the Media Arts Director at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. I write to you today with great concern regarding both the recent decision to terminate Astria Suparak as Director of The Warehouse gallery, but also the cancellation of the upcoming Yes Men exhibition at The Warehouse Gallery.

I have known of Astria Suparak's curatorial practice for quite some time, but have had the privilege to know her personally and professionally since 2002. Astria's dedication to her work as a programmer and to the work which she represents has been a great inspiration for myself and countless others. So when I learned that she had taken the position as Director at The Warehouse Gallery, I was ecstatic. Not only was I excited for myself and for Hallwalls as potential collaborators, I was thrilled because her energizing presence would be invaluable to the Upstate contemporary arts scene. Although I did not do so then, it appears that maybe I should have made it quite clear that I applaud the foresight of those responsible for bringing Astria to Syracuse. She is someone who has an amazing track record of international work and who is connected to many exciting and significant contemporary artists, and this hiring has proved a savvy move indeed. In addition to her vital work with the University faculty, staff and students, The Warehouse Gallery has garnered international acclaim and its programs have gone on to tour outside of Syracuse. What an impressive first year!

Many individuals like myself, as well as organizations such as Hallwalls, recognize that Astria's presence in Syracuse is absolutely indispensable, which makes it very difficult to process how someone with such assets can be dismissed so suddenly and without warrant. I am distressed for the students, the faculty, the community at large—for those who have already been moved by her work at The Warehouse Gallery and will miss her participation in the community, as well as for those who would have been inspired to create art and motivated to invest in the arts and arts institutions such as The Warehouse Gallery. To dispossess the community of an engaged and dedicated arts advocate, who despite her short tenure in Syracuse has done amazing work in Upstate New York and continues to do internationally acclaimed work for the field, appears duplicitous.

Although I have not yet expressed my concern regarding the cancellation of the Yes Men exhibition, I must also acknowledge my own shock as well as the confusion of countless others in the field of contemporary art. Why one would want to deprive the community of an exhibition of this internationally acclaimed arts group—the first retrospective of its kind with the potential to tour and give yet more international visibility to the Warehouse Gallery—is incomprehensible. Because of this bizarre move to cancel such a crucial show, and due to the lack of transparency in this rapid decision to relieve Astria of her position, I am led to assume the worst. I wonder if you might please facilitate a dialog that might shed some light on these concerns? As you have no doubt witnessed, I am not alone. Many in the fields of contemporary visual and media arts, as well as activists and tactical media artists, will soon pose the same questions and express the same distress.

Sincerely,


Carolyn Tennant
Media Arts Director
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center

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BACKGROUND

Syracuse has lost one its greatest assets. Astria Suparak, Inaugural Director of The Warehouse Gallery of Syracuse University, was removed from her position as of Sept. 30th, 2007, despite widespread support from community members, students, faculty, and the international art community. This decision was made unilaterally by Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).

At the time of Suparak's dismissal, Hoone also canceled her forthcoming exhibitions, including "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," due to open in November 2007.