Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ghen Zando-Dennis

To:
Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director, CMAC
Nancy Cantor, Chancellor
Eric Spina, Vice Chancellor/Provost
Carole Brzozowski, Dean of CVPA

I am writing in support (and defense?) of Astria Suparak retaining her position as Director and Curator at the Warehouse Gallery. As a New York state based artist, teacher, and curator it did not take long for me to realize the potential for culturally relative and artistically innovative dialogue and engagement between the Syracuse community and the wide-ranging field of art that came with Astria Suparak's hire at The Warehouse Gallery. I am familiar with the upstate New York art scene and follow its transformations, evolutions, setbacks, and growth despite the odds against it not "being" New York City" and not having a strong economic infrastructure.

I have been following Ms. Suparak's inventive curatorial projects and collaborations since 1998, and recently brought high school students attending the New York State Summer School of the Media Arts in Ithaca to the Networked Nature exhibition, where my above-mentioned sentiment for thoughtful relevant artistic dialogue was confirmed - happening before my eyes - and thus my bafflement at learning of Astria Suparak's dismissal from The Warehouse Gallery this month.

Decoding a quote on the gallery's mission from Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director, CMAC, is also baffling as it mirrors precisely what Ms. Suparak offered to The Warehouse Gallery, Syracuse University and the Syracuse community through her programming and local engagement:

"The guiding principle in the inception of the Gallery was the goal of positioning the arts as an important component of community
engagement by Syracuse University. As such, the Gallery has become an important venue for the exhibition of contemporary art. We have also defined its mission so that it can engage the community in a dialogue regarding the role the arts can play in illuminating the critical issues of our life and times.

I am writing to assure you that we recognize the importance of the Warehouse Gallery and our commitment to strong and inspired
Leadership (sic) for it."

Surely Hoone's reference to his commitment to strong and inspired leadership “engaging the community in a dialogue regarding the role arts can play in illuminating the critical issues of our life and times” does not refer to his own contribution to said leadership as far as the issue of Astria Suparak's dismissal is concerned. Furthermore, it is cowardly, unjust, and irresponsible to dismiss anyone without cause - doubly so if the opaque reasoning ("restructuring") is related to the artistic content of the curatorial projects.

Sincerely,

Ghen Zando-Dennis
Former Program Director, Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo
Professor, Department of Media Study, Queens College

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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.