Tuesday, September 18, 2007

John Massier

Dear Jeffrey,

It is with great disappointment that I write to you regarding the impending loss of Astria Suparak as Director of the Warehouse Gallery in Syracuse. I should point out that while I have met Astria briefly, I do not know her personally (nor do I know you) and am writing to you broadly from my general knowledge about her program during the past year in Syracuse.

During the past year, I have heard nothing but accolades regarding Astria’s tenure at Warehouse. Having been at Hallwalls for the past six and a half years, I can confidently say that this past year was the first in which I heard ANYTHING about the art scene in Syracuse. Clearly, the programming Astria initiated at Warehouse had a prodigious impact—the positive and enthusiastic feedback I received about her programming came to me from artists (in Buffalo and Syracuse), other curatorial colleagues of mine, and faculty members at Syracuse University.

The past year at Warehouse Gallery clearly exemplifies a contemporary and thought-provoking perspective and an acutely relevent series of exhibitions, examining a host of topical and slaient issues— science, technology, and art; the perpetual reconfiguration of the natural world; and sexuality and the traditional gaze as filtered through the perspective of young women artists.

Astria’s year of programming at Warehouse could readily serve as a template for smart, provocative curating. It is the sort of bright, energetic thinking that puts Syracuse more solidly on the map of contemporary ideas and serves the entire audience of Syracuse—art patrons, art students, art faculty, and everyone in between.

The fact that this news arrives concurrent with news of your decision to cancel the impending exhibition by The Yes Men is unbelievable. In concept and execution, The Yes Men are poised on the razor’s edge question of the implications of corporate culture as it slowly and surely swallows the world. This is EXACTLY the sort of contemporary work and broadly-applicable issues with which your students should be confronted and it’s shocking to hear of its cancellation.

University environments used to be the terrain that most fervently supported radical thought, alternative perspectives, and free expression...what happened?

Even more stunning to me—if true—is that your rationale for her dismissal is a desire to “restructure” the Gallery to meet your own high standards. You’ll forgive that I am compelled to articulate the obvious to you—EVERYONE is smart enough to read “restructuring” as a complete euphemism and it will not surprise me if this logic is met with general disbelief. As Dennis Miller once put it, people can see through that “like used Neutrogena.”

Those of us in the cultural field get—quite appropriately—excited when we observe someone of Astria’s obvious skills and enthusiasm contributing to the art scene in a meaningful way, particularly when that contribution re-establishes a town like Syracuse on the art radar.

We need those young curators. And they need our support and encouragement.

I regret that this equation seems to have so easily fallen apart in Syracuse. We all had higher hopes than that.


John Massier
Visual Arts Curator
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
341 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202

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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.