Friday, September 28, 2007

Julie Zando-Dennis

Dear Chancellor Cantor,

I am writing to add my voice to the outpouring of protest against the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers ’ (CMAC) plans to remove Astria Suparak from her post as Director of the University-affiliated Warehouse Gallery.

Like thousands of my generation, I left an economically-depressed Northern New York in the 1980’s to seek better job opportunities and adventure elsewhere. In the course of my life, I have lived throughout the United States , and presently live in Brooklyn , New York . I pass through Syracuse regularly and am aware of, and applaud, developments in the city that indicate visionary leadership, such as the opening of the William F. Walsh Regional Transportation Center and the renovation of Armory Square . While the city has taken important steps towards putting its infrastructure in place, it remains unclear whether Syracuse can attract and retain the young talent that will ultimately drive its growth.

This summer, I heard that Syracuse University had hired Ms. Suparak to direct a newly renovated warehouse gallery in the city. As an artist and former media art programmer, I knew of Ms. Suparak’s thoughtful, intelligent, and energetic work. I was not at all surprised to learn that in a short time she had successfully developed the gallery into a regional powerhouse with a growing reputation.

In my view, leadership of Ms. Suparak’s caliber is what Syracuse needs to attract artists and professionals to the Syracuse area. As a nationally respected curator of visual and media art, her hiring signaled to me that Syracuse University recognized the role an active and engaged contemporary arts community can play in urban redevelopment plans.

Thus, I was greatly concerned when I learned that Ms. Suparak was unceremoniously removed from her post at Warehouse Gallery. From the letters posted on the web, it appears that many people found inspiration and friendship at the Warehouse Gallery. That energy cannot be attributed to bricks and mortar, but rather is due to Ms. Suparak’s enormous talents. It’s a shame the city will lose her.

Syracuse University owes Ms. Suparak, her supporters, and the city of Syracuse a cogent and satisfactory explanation for this unpopular decision. Ms. Suparak is held in high esteem by her colleagues and constituencies, both locally and nationally, because of her outstanding professionalism and enthusiastic personal style. Thus, her abrupt removal, without explanation, appears arbitrary and capricious. Mr. Jeffrey Hoones, the Executive Director of CMAC, has posted a letter on that purports to justify his decision to replace Ms. Suparak. However, the letter’s inscrutable and empty doublespeak does little to assuage the genuine concerns expressed by the Syracuse and national art community.

In sum, the University has not demonstrated that Ms. Suparak is undeserving of her position as Director of the Warehouse Gallery, or that the Gallery would benefit from a change of direction. Indeed, it appears that Ms. Suparak’s tenure at the gallery has been a resounding success. Thus, it is my opinion that the University must reinstate Ms. Suparak, not only for the benefit of the Gallery, but also because such a move will contribute greatly to the growth and reinvigoration of the city.

Very Truly Yours,

Julie Zando-Dennis , Esq.

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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.