Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Post Standard Article -- Melinda Johnson

[ original post here. ]

Art community stunned by curator's termination

campaign of blogs, letters, e-mails in support of Astria Suparak has been launched.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
By Melinda Johnson
Arts editor

Syracuse's arts community has been rocked with news of the dismissal of Astria Suparak, director and curator of The Warehouse Gallery. A campaign of blog entries, letters, e-mails, and letters to the editor in support of Suparak has been launched.

Suparak was the first director of the contemporary art gallery, which is affiliated with Syracuse University and housed at 350 W. Fayette St. While she was terminated earlier this month, Suparak will remain on the job until Sept. 30.

At the end of June, Suparak said her boss Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC) at Syracuse University, told her a reorganization was planned and she would report to Domenic Iacono, director of SU Art Galleries. She was told her position would remain unchanged.

On Sept. 7, Suparak said she was informed she was being "let go" during a four-minute meeting with Hoone. She described the meeting as having a "complete lack of clarity" and "decisions were very opaque."

"I'm taken aback by what seems to be dramatic decisions," Suparak said.

On Tuesday, Hoone said a personnel change has taken place. In a press release, he stated that conversations with Suparak began six months ago and included discussions with CMAC personnel and the human resources staff "that involves confidential issues and issues related to overall long-term goals and objectives."

Hoone said the gallery will continue with its mission and work with the community. "We'll go in the direction contemporary artists take us," he said by phone.

He said there will be "no gap" in the gallery's programming. Hoone also denied rumors of the cancellation of the November exhibit, "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism With The Yes Men." "We are working with the artists to see if we can go forward with the exhibition."

Attempts to contact The Yes Men were unsuccessful.

Mick Mather, special projects coordinator at Cultural Resources Council, has worked with Suparak on two downtown public art projects and community outreach efforts.

"She's young, smart, very good at what she does," he said. He has been impressed to have "someone so forward-thinking."

Her departure will disrupt the connections she has forged with younger artists who are producing emerging art forms - electronica, technology and short films, Mather said.

"That is something that's going to be stunted," he said.

As with any "corporate behemoth," Mather said, a six-month paper trail is common when an employee is terminated. Of the process, he said, "it's never really transparent enough for the person who's going or the community."

Suparak, 29, said she accepted the position as director and curator of The Warehouse Gallery in June 2006 because it offered the ability to create a new contemporary art space from the outset.

She acknowledged that there had been some difficulties. "I thought we had dealt with each one effectively." She pointed to the success of her five major exhibitions, collaboration with international artists, media attention and turnout of 300 to 400 guests at opening receptions.

Suparak will host a Thursday reception for the current exhibition, "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze," considered by some to be controversial for its sexual content.

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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.