Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tom Sherman

September 14, 2007

Mr. Jeff Hoone
Executive Director,
Coalition of Museums and Art Centers
at Syracuse University

Dear Jeff,

I am writing to express my disappointment over the sudden, mysterious cancellation of the Yes Men show at the Warehouse Gallery. As you are aware, several of us in the Syracuse University community were committing funds to integrate the Yes Men exhibition into our Fall courses. This late, unexplained termination has undermined the promise of the semester for several professors and scores of students. It is my hope that this decision can be reversed.

In our recent in-person and e-mail exchanges you have told me the reasons for cancelling the show had nothing to do with the Yes Men. You suggested I go ahead with my plans to bring the Yes Men into my classes on my own. You even wrote that perhaps the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers could work with the Yes Men in the future. While it is true that I might be able to involve the Yes Men in my classes as visiting artists, you have pulled the plug on something much more important. This community was engaged in a cross-disciplinary, cooperative initiative to examine and share its interests and insights regarding the work of the Yes Men. You have short-circuited this community initiative without explanation.

I had hoped this community would benefit from a public exhibition highlighting the strategies and methodologies of the Yes Men. This exhibition would have provided links to the strong historical roots of ‘culture jamming’ in Dada, Fluxus and the Situationists. This exhibition would have provided insights across a wide range of cultural terrain, from traditional fine arts to the mechanisms of corporate media. Most importantly the Yes Men show would be a celebration of the relevancy and power of contemporary art to create images and launch ideas that resonate across societal boundaries. A gallery exhibition making the globally effective work of the Yes Men more grounded, local, transparent and obvious would be magnificent, and it would draw us from our respective Departments to meet at the Warehouse to be nourished by the vitality of living, breathing contemporary art.

The Warehouse Gallery, under the leadership of Astria Suparak and her staff, has progressively transformed the physical space of the gallery into a nexus for a community hungry for the energy and creative noise of contemporary art. Under Astria’s leadership, and propelled largely by her insatiable curiosity, remarkable energy and strength of personal commitment, the Warehouse staff have legged out innumerable contacts, building community by making the Warehouse Gallery useful to people throughout the University and city. In an era dominated by networks and lightning fast, global communications, Astria’s shows have dealt with big ideas in provocative exhibitions staged on a human-scale physically, intellectually and emotionally. The Gallery is functioning as it should, like a social network. People really talk about the shows at the Warehouse (Come On: desire under the female gaze; Networked Nature; Faux Naturel; Embracing Winter…); the students go, and faculty use these shows to teach and to learn themselves. I must add that it has been exciting to see how a gallery directed by a woman with feminist ideals, disciplined intelligence and a principled sense of human justice can so quickly diversify and enhance the cultural landscape of this city and region.

In closing I urge you to reverse your decision to cancel the Yes Men exhibition in November. It is an important show to many of us in this community. It is also essential that the Warehouse Gallery continue to provide energy and real difference in its role as a beacon for contemporary art in downtown Syracuse, complementing and adding to the fine work being done by the Coalition of Galleries and Museums at Syracuse University and by the independents including ThINC and Spark Contemporary Art. In its first year of existence the Warehouse Gallery, under the direction of Astria Suparak and her staff, has made a significant difference in Syracuse and has begun to assert itself nationally and internationally. The Yes Men exhibition would build on this momentum. Please do not disrupt this remarkable success at the heart of our community.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Sherman
Professor, Art Video
Department of Transmedia
Syracuse University

cc: Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Vice-Chancellor Eric Spina, Dean Carole Brzozowski

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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.