Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jan Pottie

Let's Review

Last spring a faculty member revealed that Jeff Hoone was "giving Astria Suparak a hard time." This was noted but not addressed because Astria remained so positive about the Warehouse Gallery. The shows looked great, were very well attended and were receiving excellent press.

Astria Suparak's curatorial reputation was solidly established before coming to Syracuse. Her appointment as Director of the Warehouse Gallery made many people in contemporary art circles aware of Syracuse University for the first time.

To her credit Astria did not share Jeff Hoone's dissatisfaction. In retrospect it is clear that Hoone's campaign to have her dismissed had begun.

Let's review the harassment of Astria Suparak by Jeffrey Hoone. His blustering, erratic, contradictory and often ranting emails posted on this site (
Sherman: Hoone & Suparak) provide stark evidence of his bullying tactics.

Hoone's harassment of Suparak was oddly accepted by Human Resources as the groundwork necessary for a dismissal for "personnel issues", a designation meant to protect the reputations of both the complainants (Hoone, Cantor, Spina, Walsh, Wells, Quinn, Ware et al) as well as the dismissed employee, in this case the diminutive but vibrant Asian American curator, Astria Suparak.

Seem a little lopsided?

Astria forged on, valiantly putting in long hours to meet Hoone's increasingly contradictory demands and impossible deadlines.

We in the University and broader Syracuse community were unaware of the obvious (and sanctioned?) harassment.

Suparak's openings were thoughtful, flawless and also just plain fun.

When Come On opened Syracuse audiences had had a year to adjust to the Suparak curatorial style and were looking forward to another year of Suparak's compelling art installation approach: her own hand visible, her unwavering insistence that curation is art.

The 2007-2008 exhibition schedule looked great! Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze was a huge and welcome success for the Warehouse Gallery, a success that would have grown exponentially with the scheduled show, The Yes Men.

For unfathomable reasons, Astria Suparak was suddenly dismissed in the middle of her successful show Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze.

The show's success must have come as a surprise (and disappointment?) to Jeffrey Hoone and the Chancellor's cabinet. Furthermore the show was successful in spite of attempts of several grown men (with Cantor's approval) to censor it.

Several people have insisted that there has been no censorship, as does this letter from Chancellor Cantor's new spokesperson, Ann Clarke:

"I can also assure you that they both [Cantor and Spina], as individuals and representatives of the University, maintain impeccable standards, that in no way include condoning censorship of any kind, subtle or overt." (Oct. 7,2007)

This posturing has become tiresome.

Let's review the ways in which Astria Suparak was censored by Jeff Hoone, the Chancellor and the Chancellors Cabinet, including Eric Spina, as evident by an email exchange publicly released by Jeffrey Hoone (to implicate the Chancellor and members of her cabinet as protest mounted over Suparak's firing?)

1. Jeffrey Hoone's insistence that the words "feminist" and/or "feminism" could not appear in the title or materials.

2. The addition of a disclaimer to limit audience: "Tom Walsh, Eric Spina, Barry Wells, and Kevin Quinn have been discussing the issue at the Chancellor's request. The exhibit is to continue as planned, with the addition of a sign outside the gallery space indicating that the content is for mature audiences”
Lisa Jong-Soon Goodlin -- Jeffrey Hoone -- Matthew Snyder

3. The elimination of promotional materials for Come On from freshmen packets: "The marketing materials for the exhibit that were to be placed in the ReadySet (new student welcome materials) will not be included after all"
Lisa Jong-Soon Goodlin -- Jeffrey Hoone -- Matthew Snyder

4. Some members of the chancellor's cabinet actually went to the gallery to "review" the material (oh to be a fly on the wall as these men perused art made by young women about sexual desire and did not find themselves!)

5. Finally and most obvious is that they resorted to the ultimate act of censorship when they removed Astria Suparak from her position as Director and Curator of the Warehouse Gallery in the middle of Come On, and canceled all her scheduled exhibitions.

It is beyond naive for Hoone, Chancellor Cantor, the members of her cabinet and her new spokeswoman, Ann Clarke, to continue to insist there has been no censorship. Dismissal is the ultimate censorship.

Please stop!

This was a poorly informed decision made by people clearly out of touch with faculty and students, and the educational mission of the University.

Had anyone at any time consulted with a single member of the Department of Art, Department of Foundation or Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University they would have learned that members of these faculties had invested in the Warehouse Gallery 2007-2008 exhibitions, and particularly in the Yes Men show. Faculty had both written The Yes Men show into curricula and supported it financially.

Students at Syracuse University would rightly fail for handing in conclusions based on such shoddy research.

Let's review the capacity of this administration to insulate themselves from the educational mission of the University:

On or around September 13th, at a Senate meeting, Professor Tom Sherman approached Chancellor Cantor about the cancellation of the Yes Men Show. Sherman assumed that Hoone had acted alone and that the Chancellor was unaware of Suparak's firing and the exhibition cancellation.

To Professor Sherman's dismay and surprise Chancellor Cantor's response was to reassure him that all the proper steps were being taken through Human Resources to secure the dismissal Astria Suparak !

How do you spell out of touch? C-A-N-T-O-R?

Professor Sherman informed the Chancellor of faculty involvement and financial investment in the Yes Men Show. This was clearly news to her. Unfortunately she seemed unable to digest the implications of this "new" information.

Nancy Cantor remained unable and unwilling to digest the implications throughout the next several weeks, responding to the many intelligent, considered and sincere emails with an automatic email response:

"I have asked Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, to more fully respond to your concerns as I trust his leadership and this is a departmental personnel issue."

Nancy Cantor

Chancellor Cantor has little idea of how this automatic response has diminished her in the eyes of her many admirers in the arts community both within the University and the city.

This poor administrative decision has alerted faculties, professors, students, and alumni of the extent to which the administration has insulated itself from members of its own constituency and the educational mission of the University.

A poor administrative decision compounded by the failure to address it.

For example, University Scholars, and dedicated alumni, Ken White and Rebekah Scotland have written a thoughtful letter outlining their concerns and reiterating their love for Syracuse University. Chancellor Cantor has yet to respond.
Rebekah Scotland and Kenneth White.

Instead the Chancellor and Provost persist with the same kind of insular strategy and have simply replaced Jeff Hoone with new spokesperson, Ann Clarke.

Through emails Ann Clarke has insisted that in order to move forward, discussion must be removed from a public forum, indicating the University is prepared to offer Suparak some kind of contract.

This was welcome news for Suparak's many many supporters. The letters stopped as supporters waited for this wrong to be righted, for the harm to be undone.

Unfortunately in private forums the administration, through Ann Clarke, has continued to impugn the reputation of Astria Suparak.

For example, Clarke states that although she hasn't personally read the file, Eric Spina has assured her there was cause for Suparak's dismissal.

Perhaps the cause for dismissal was based on all those sleepless nights while Astria altered course yet again to appease Jeffrey Hoone's newest impossible demand and ASAP deadline.

The only thing that is really well documented is the well documented harassment of Astria Suparak by Jeffrey Hoone in his many 'ASAP' emails.

This under-handed, gossipy approach taken by the administration through their new spokesperson, Ann Clarke, is simply an extension of the on-going harassment of Astria Suparak begun by Jeffrey Hoone.

It makes everybody feel bad and it makes the University look bad.

Many people have worked very hard to keep Astria Suparak, a highly regarded, well-known curator in Syracuse because she makes the University and the city better.

So finally let's review why discussions regarding Astria Suparak will remain in a public forum:

The culture of censorship and secrecy at Syracuse University has to end.

There has been enough back-room dealing by Jeff Hoone, the Chancellor's cabinet and Human Resources regarding Astria Suparak.

Members of the administration and/or their spokesperson are unable to resist attempts to further impugn, through insinuation and gossip, the reputation of this dynamic Asian American woman.

It will remain in a public forum because many of us are intellectually invested in our alma mater and are concerned about an administration that operates in secret, slyly working behind scenes, twisting and misusing the legitimate policies of Human Resources, policies that are meant to protect reputations and not harm them.

It will remain in a public forum because the reputation of the University has been harmed as a direct result of the harm it has caused Astria Suparak, through her firing and on-going attempts to smear her reputation.

Let's not let this be misunderstood. Astria Suparak stands alone negotiating her future in the face of this very lop-sided committee that includes Cantor, Hoone, Spina, Wells, Walsh, Quinn, Eleanor Ware and Ann Clarke.

The recent paradoxical offer of a supposed comparable position (curator at large without a space or any budget) is an obvious bad faith attempt to silence supporters.

Astria Suparak should be encouraged and funded to proceed with the exhibitions she had planned for the 2007-2008 season, beginning with The Yes Men Show. This show exceeded all criteria of her mandate at the Warehouse Gallery, promising to broaden and invigorate the knowledge of faculty and students through direct exposure to contemporary art practice.

Astria Suparak was providing opportunities for direct exposure to contemporary art that have not been available outside major cities. This is why faculty had written her exhibitions into curricula and provided financial support.

Please have the courage to undo this wrong and allow Astria Suparak to proceed with her exhibition schedule.


Jan Pottie,
Alumna, Syracuse University
Phi Kappa Phi

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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.