Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post-Standard -- Katherine Rushworth

Up Close and Personal

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I know I'm not alone in wondering what direction The Warehouse Gallery will take in a post-Astria Suparak era. Suparak, the gallery's recently terminated director, had built a solid reputation for mounting smart, edgy-to-the-point-of-controversial group exhibitions. She featured national and international contemporary artists who engaged a wide variety of media. Under her leadership, The Warehouse Gallery was providing the Syracuse visual arts community with a quality and range of shows that no other venue in the area was offering - a breath of fresh air.

So, when I heard The Yes Men - a widely acclaimed, sometimes maligned, band of cultural interventionists - had pulled out of their scheduled "show" at The Warehouse Gallery, I was wondering what would, or could, take their place. The answer is - drum roll, please - a photography show.

This was most likely a quick fill to solve the gap created by the cancellation of The Yes Men, so I think it's only fair to the gallery's interim curator, Jeffrey Hoone, that we wait to see what kinds of shows will be charting the future for this important visual arts venue. Hoone, at the eye of the storm surrounding Suparak's termination, deserves a chance to show us the direction he will take the gallery. He knows he's under a microscope and that community expectations are high.

[ Read more here ]

Friday, November 23, 2007


[ Reposted from here ]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Apparently my old friend Astria Suparak is caught in the middle of some sort of academic ego battle at the Syracuse art space that she founded a little while back. I don't really know the whole story, but I guess she's been forced out and has had to cancel some shows, which I can attest is a really lame position to be in.

Astria has been super helpful to me over the years, hooking me up with artists Seth Price and Miranda July for different articles and generally schooling me on art film. I was lucky enough to screen one of Astria's short films in a program at Anthology Film Archives years ago, and I can testify that she's a true believer in the DIY community aesthetic. It's been ages since I saw her - upstate is pretty far away sometimes - but I sincerely hope this gets sorted out and she can get back to doing what she does best... This whole situation seems pretty weird and unnecessary.

Check the links:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fanzine: "Desire in Syracuse: the 'Come On' Controversy"

Desire in Syracuse: the 'Come On' Controversy
Yvonne Olivas

Desire in Syracuse

It was the flyer for "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze" that initially caught my attention with its cropped image of I'll Be Your Mirror by Juliet Jacobson and matching seductive title in its glam-metal, fleshy-pink font. In Jacobson's drawing, one half of the graphite image mirrors the other—making it appear that a nude boy with eyes closed reclines and melds into the body of his perfect twin. A giant heart-shape hangs like a moon above the languid pair while skulls and peacock feathers make do as a bed beneath. The name of the exhibition is printed below the image and alludes to Jo-Anne Balcaen's Aw, C'mon while the '80s-rock font suggests Rachel Rampleman's Poison: My Sister Fucked Bret video. My interest piqued, I tracked down the show's curator, Astria Suparak, and the show's three artists for interviews.

The exhibition opened late-August in Syracuse, New York at the Warehouse Gallery. Affiliated with Syracuse University as one of a consortium of school galleries (Coalition of Museums and Art Centers—CMAC), the space maintains relative independence with its off-campus, downtown location. This location allowed The Warehouse to better fulfill its purported aim to act as a bridge between the university and the population of Syracuse while presenting international contemporary engaged art, but more specifically by stimulating dialog about art's role in society and expanding notions of art with exposure to current art practice.

Of course, "Come On" did just that with three young women artists taking on desire and sexuality and brought together by a curator who openly describes herself as a "young, queer woman of color." And whether at first by choice and later by dint of circumstance, the ongoing theme of the exhibition was the personal laid bare and exposed. Alternately sexy and uncomfortable the show was always HOT. And not just because of the artwork. Browsing online I found that the exhibition had already been extensively covered by the press; curiously, the curator was fired just after the show opened. It was not too long until speculations about censorship over the content of the exhibition were circulating online. Hot indeed! And presumably no accident either.

An eight-person hiring committee at the university had actively pursued Ms. Suparak for the position of inaugural director of their new contemporary art gallery which she would eventually name The Warehouse. They believed that she possessed the ability to make it a vital space for art. This committee was wowed by her active connection to the contemporary art world. As an independent curator, she had already organized shows for P.S. 1, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Participant Inc., Yale University, Eyebeam, New York Underground Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, apexart, etc. According to Suparak, the committee unanimously voted to hire her—and this after she had presented them with many, many fully formed exhibition proposals with titles and lists of artists. Suparak said, "all the exhibitions I organize[d] for the gallery were drawn from that set of ideas." In other words, it appears that the administration knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Suparak—a very active and independent curator. Ostensibly that is what they wanted. Successful, that is precisely what they got; just not as they must have anticipated. It seems that Suparak's vision mightily exceeded that of her superiors' stunted imaginations, and yet not that of The Warehouse's larger audience—"Come On" alone received 4,000 visitors—impressive, especially in a small city like Syracuse.

For anyone familiar with contemporary art, or even the history of art, the frank sexual content of some of the work in "Come On" would not prove surprising or shocking. Context is another matter as it often compels the judgement of the measure of transgression. Single works of art are routinely removed from exhibitions for their particular content. During our interview, both Rachel Rampleman and Juliet Jacobson mentioned the very recent censoring of a Nan Goldin photograph in Gateshead, England at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. The snapshot titled Klare and Edda Belly-Dancing shows two young girls playing—one dances above the other who is nude on the floor with legs open. It is part of a 149-piece photo series called Thanksgiving and owned by Elton John. It was seized by authorities who deemed it pornographic. Those who would have this one photograph removed probably imagine that it does not detract from the work of art. Disagreeing with this limited conception of art, Elton John had the remainder of Thanksgiving removed from view in support of the integrity of Nan Goldin's work.

This question of content and context is particularly illuminating in light of curator Astria Suparak's dismissal mid-showing of the "Come On" exhibition. In a series of emails, published online at "syracuse loses again," Jeffrey Hoone, the executive director of CMAC who personally dismissed Suparak, asks her to defend the work in the "Come On" exhibition, which he continually characterized as "weak and seriously flawed." Hoone stated that they would "have to do quite a bit of work to provide a context and rationalization for exhibiting these pieces." He singled out Juliet Jacobson's drawings, the content of which he claimed would be "clearly offensive to a good number of people" and would "be a challenge for sophisticated art lovers…and certainly seen as controversial by many."


Juliet Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based artist. She had four works in the show—huge graphite drawings (some as large as 48 by 114 inches) of nude males taken from the pages of '70s and '80s "European, men's-interest magazines." Men pose languorously in these drawings. They penetrate each other as in You Said You Hated Your Body, That It's Just a Piece of Meat, But I Think You're Wrong. I Think You're Beautiful; they kiss in No Weak Heart Shall Prosper; or they hold their erect penises as in Narcissus or I'll Be Your Mirror; and sometimes when they are coupled, one boy is white and one boy is black. All of the images are symmetrically composed where the figures are mirrored or bifurcate from the center. Included are images of snakes, skulls, feathers, flowers and the moon. For Jacobson, the flowers and skulls figure symbolically as a "wish to dismantle limits in love and sex and the demarcation of death as a singular horizon for being." The drawings distort and fracture the body in space and collapse their center. This collapse is presumably the effect of love—something that Jacobson speaks of in reference to her work—human meaning created by the mutuality of self and other rather than the hierarchical arrangement of self and other.

Rachel Rampleman, who also lives in Brooklyn and whose work includes video, photography and sculpture, provided a contrast to Jacobson's work. Poison: My Sister Fucked Bret (2006) is a 30-minute video account of Rampleman's little sister Sarah's night with '80s glam-rock band Poison's lead singer Bret Michaels. It is the memory of being a suburban, Ohio teen in the throes of total rock-idol worship to the excitement and disappointment of actually getting to meet him. Flashback images of a younger Sarah are interspersed with Poison video clips, Bret posters and an older Sarah, who now has a different body, narrating her encounter with her teenage-dream idol. She speaks from the backdrop of her home—in her bedroom on her bed, in her bathroom seated in front of a large mirror, in front of a television against which her body is only a black silhouette—sometimes a toddler walks in and out of the frame, or can be heard repeating "la la la la la la." From the clip that's on youtube, you get the sense that her experience with Bret was a mixture of awe and deflated expectation, but matter-of-factly so and not without a dose of humor. At the end of the encounter Bret asks Sarah if he could do anything different for her, in her mind she says, "get an enlargement…take some Viagra."

Neither Rampleman nor her sister expected many people to see this trailer. But they did. On youtube her story was dismissed by comments, the "basic gist," of which, Rampleman said, "was, 'Does Bret bang the fat fans? We think not.' A lot of people were like, 'There's no way.'" Even though these comments were not part of the "Come On" exhibition, they are telling. They acutely register that when it comes to women, bodies are judged first, words second; comments went so far as to suggest that if they found her undesirable, then her story was not even plausible.

Montreal-based artist Jo-Anne-Balcaen felt that her work Blow had much in common with Rampleman's Poison. It was a sculpture made of long skinny black balloons with all their tied openings bound together on a wall. This created a neat rosette of black tubes, which incidentally, resembled condoms with their nippled, receptacle ends pointing out. Since the work was comprised of blown up balloons, it wilted and deflated over the course of the show—mirroring the fate of expectation or memory of celebration turned to disappointment or a return to the mundane. Blow might also intimate that physical female sexual desire does not want to be let down.

Balcaen's other four works in the show were text-based. They included the taunting and reassuring phrase Aw, C'mon written in a heavy-metal font cut from a silvery Plexiglas that made the words reflect like a mirror. Dictionary Definitions: Prince of Darkness , Yearning Year Round, Blurt Blush juxtaposed words and their definitions, alluding to the flux of connotation and meaning inherent in words. Deceptive in their straight forwardness, these works were reminders that words are just like balloons, or other mundane objects, in that they arouse expectation and suggest associations. Hinted at is a cultural inheritance that informs the expectation that words are gendered—as if one word could obviously be feminine, while another, obviously masculine.


Returning to the idea of content and context, it may be tempting to accuse Jeffrey Hoone of censorship in light of his email correspondence with Astria Suparak, the director and curator of the Warehouse Gallery, whom he dismissed. The problem with this accusation is that it narrows and occludes the perception of a constellation of relevant issues at play. In these emails, Hoone demands an account of the work in the show to which Suparak supplies a lengthy defense citing its timeliness with regard to the recent "WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution" at LA MOCA and "Global Feminisms" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and then further contextualizes the work in regard to third-wave feminism, but especially foregrounds the subject of female sexuality and desire juxtaposed and complicated with the imagery of sexualized, homosexual males. She closes by confirming the exhibition's relevance to a list of several classes at the university.

Hoone lights upon Suparak's mentioning of recent art exhibitions that deal with feminism and contends that she could have borrowed some of these artists like "Catherine Opie, Kara Walker, Sam Taylor-Wood and others" to "introduce the Central New York audience to important artists dealing with issues of gender, sexuality and representation." This statement admits much, particularly that he misunderstand Jacobson's or Rampleman's or Balcaen's work; or what feminism might mean to a generation of artists with roots and familiarity with DIY, Riot Grrrl, third-wave feminism and queer theory; and how it is that this versatility and fluency with theoretical positions and mediums might inform their practice. He betrays fixed thinking in recommending certain artists, subtly suggesting that feminism—or worse, women artists as a general category—comes prepackaged with ready discourse attached. In doing so he does a great disservice to these established artists by implying that there is a text-book approach to dealing with women and art.

Standing in sharp contrast to this text-book approach was Suparak whose exhibition's resisted narrow thinking and neat categorization—"Come On" was exemplary in this regard. For Hoone though, it must have had the character of something he could not understand nor contain—it was too messy, too sexy, too complicated—overall, too hot. But it was the same HOT thing that Syracuse embraced; and while probably challenging, a threat it was not. The fact is that Suparak did curate contextually strong exhibitions. This is why she had a following. This is why the Warehouse was widely hailed as a success. And this is why no one but Hoone balked at "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze." Suparak was exceedingly capable of creating a context for challenging and new work. So Hoone could not really censor her, subtracting one work from her well-conceived exhibition would not sufficiently stop her as a phenomenon. There was only one possible solution to removing Suparak as a threat. He unilaterally decided to terminate her position.

Promptly after he did so, in a swift chronology of events, he cancelled the next show Suparak had scheduled, "Keep it Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with the Yes Men," furthering an attempt to stamp out her sphere of influence. There was an outcry from the faculty who had given funds for the exhibition and Hoone decided not to cancel it. In support of Suparak and protest at her dismissal, the Yes Men declined to show if they could not work with her. Hundreds of people, even beyond the city limits of Syracuse, have protested her firing and written letters and lobbied for her reinstatement. A protest was even staged at the front doors of the gallery itself. These include statements of support from Lauren Cornell, executive director of Rhizome; artist Carolee Schneemann; artist Stephen Vitiello; the Bard College Faculty of the Department of Film and Electronic Arts; and the Chairs of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She was even appointed by a vote of 7-0 by the Syracuse Common Council to the city's new Public Arts Commission in recognition of the fact that her influence did indeed extend beyond that of the university. Still, a unilateral decision made by one man is somehow being allowed to stand, depriving a university and a city of something they want and no doubt leaving in its wake a new culture of fear and distrust.

Yvonne C. Olivas
Thank you Sady for all your help.

cover image is from Jo-Anne Balcaen's, Blow, 2001, balloons, approximately 8 by 11 by 3 feet and (right) Aw, C'mon, 2005, Plexiglas, 14 by 40 by 3/4 inches.

Please check out:

Jo-Anne Balcaen:
Juliet Jacobson:
Rachel Rampleman:

And for more information about Astria Suparak and recent events:

Copyright 2006 Fanzine Media ( - All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tom Sherman

An open letter asking for answers

November 11, 2007

The corporate takeover of art at Syracuse University

On September 28, 2007, Astria Suparak was dismissed as Director and Curator of Syracuse University’s Warehouse Gallery. Suparak was given no reason for the termination of her contract—Chancellor Nancy Cantor told the press and a broad constituency supporting Suparak that this dismissal was a personnel issue, not a decision to censor Suparak based on the content of her shows. Hundreds of SU faculty, students and a national and international art scene continue to believe otherwise and the story has traveled far and wide (New York Times, Artforum, Flash Art, Art Info, Buffalo News, Syracuse Post-Standard, etc.). This unexplained dismissal of a well-known and respected curator, in tune with her community and on the ascent, is a huge embarrassment for Chancellor Cantor, Syracuse University and the city of Syracuse.

Although all evidence pointed toward censorship (Suparak’s last exhibition was “Come On: desire under the female gaze,” a show Chancellor Cantor and members of her cabinet tried to hide from incoming freshmen), Jeffrey Hoone, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers at Syracuse University (CMAC) stated publicly that he dismissed Suparak because he was ‘restructuring’ the Warehouse Gallery. Between SU’s administration hiding behind a shield of “confidential personnel issues” and Hoone’s vague restructuring explanation, the story exploded nationally and internationally, severely damaging the reputation of the arts at Syracuse University and the city of Syracuse.

Throughout the month of October 2007, Chancellor Cantor and Vice-Chancellor Eric Spina continued to support Hoone’s decision to dismiss Suparak, while behind the scenes this same administration encouraged the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) to work out a deal to hire Suparak as a Curator-in-Residence. Ann Clarke, Associate Dean of VPA, asked Suparak to submit a proposal for such a position and Clarke began meeting with the faculties of the Department of Transmedia and the School of Art and Design to involve the University community in the formation of this Curator-in-Residence position. The Administration (Cantor and Spina), asked Eleanor Ware, SU’s Senior Vice-President for Human Services and Government Relations to work with VPA’s Ann Clark and Astria Suparak to strike a deal. The idea was that the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor would put up the money, the College of Visual and Performing Arts would be the administrative home of this new position, and this new initiative would allow Suparak to continue her innovative curatorial work minus a permanent space (SU’s Administration refused to reverse their decision that the Warehouse Gallery would be transformed into an extension of CMAC’s SU Art Gallery with Jeff Hoone as Interim Curator).

On Friday morning, November 2, 2007, lawyers representing Syracuse University and Astria Suparak exchanged a draft contract for this Curator-in-Residence position in VPA. VPA Dean Carole Brzozowski and Ann Clarke had met earlier, on Monday of that week, with Suparak and SU faculty members, Tom Sherman and Joanna Spitzner. All agreed this was a chance to invent something exciting, a new kind of position that could put a charge into a stagnant, somewhat dusty visual arts component of the College. Many were hopeful a deal was about to be struck a little over a month after Suparak’s last day at the Warehouse Gallery. But on November 2nd, late in the afternoon on that same Friday, Astria Suparak received word from her lawyer that SU’s lawyer had called to say the University had withdrawn the offer. Ann Clarke later sent an e-mail to Suparak confirming that the University’s offer for the Curator-in-Residence position had been withdrawn by VPA’s administration, Carole Brzozowski and Ann Clarke. Clarke said the offer was withdrawn because of a lack of trust (their decision was apparently based on their perception of a lack of ‘chemistry’ between them and Suparak), and because VPA is in too poor a shape to take the University’s money for the Curator-in-Residence position!!??.

Since the money for this new position was coming exclusively from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor’s offices, did Brzozowski and Clarke consult with Cantor and Spina before pulling the plug? To date Brzozowski and Clarke have made no attempt to communicate with the public on the reasons for their withdrawal of this offer.

Let’s reflect on the events of this autumn and where we might go from here. Jeffrey Hoone dismissed Suparak, during the ascent of her growing success at the Warehouse Gallery, without giving cause. The Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor stood by this decision, supporting Hoone, stating that SU’s Human Resources policies had been followed and implying that there was cause, while hundreds of letters and thousands of e-mails from University, city, national and international artists, curators, educators, business leaders, city officials and concerned individuals were demanding Suparak’s reinstatement at the Warehouse Gallery. Everyone wanted to know why Suparak was fired and how this could be supported by the University. Toward the end of October, Suparak was permitted to check her file at SU’s Office of Human Resources. There was no statement of cause for dismissal in this file. There was no evidence of a performance review. No review ever occurred. No complaint or citation about her performance was ever filed. In fact, her file was completely clean.

Meanwhile, CMAC remains intact with Hoone as its Executive Director, and a chill has been cast over CMAC’s once independent galleries and spaces. The faculties of the Department of Transmedia and the School of Art and Design have boycotted and effectively cancelled SU’s 2007 Faculty Show. These faculties were not only protesting Suparak’s dismissal but the total disconnect between the creative academic mission of these Departments and the University-imposed CMAC ‘coalition.’ VPA’s visual and media arts faculty and students find themselves literally without exhibition space for their own work. The Warehouse Gallery that they were investing in financially and pedagogically (the Yes Men show and Suparak’s other unrealized exhibitions) has been snatched away to serve Cantor, Spina and Hoone’s vision of the arts at SU. What expertise do they employ when making their decisions? Has the College of Visual and Performing Arts ever been weaker?

Trust between the administration and faculty, students and alumni has been shattered. The University and city have been hurt badly. Young people were actually moving to and staying in Syracuse because the scene was showing signs of life. If the arts are indeed part of Syracuse ’s rebirth, then we have all suffered quite a setback. The reputations of many of the key players have been tarnished. We should all be deeply embarrassed. The global arts scene is wired and communicative and has a long memory. From Syracuse to Brooklyn to San Francisco to Paris to Beijing —if you are in the arts you would have to be under a rock to have missed this story. Our first international arts story since a Yoko Ono retrospective brought Ono and John Lennon to the Everson Museum in 1971, and it is this stinker! This CMAC/Warehouse Gallery fiasco will cost the city in the long run and will hurt the University in its efforts to recruit and retain good faculty, staff and students.

This whole mess could have been avoided, had it not been for the excesses of an uptight corporate university culture and a group of decision-makers sharing a basic disrespect for artists and creative, open-minded people in general. Silencing a respected curator profoundly in-tune with her community and on the ascent is a blatant act of censorship. Spin it anyway you like—the direction, timing and nature of the hostility toward Suparak and the community that supported her speaks for itself. Take a look around this city and University. You will see a demoralized, disenfranchised, angry creative sector. You will see an art scene wounded by a corporate University fearful of and hell-bent on oppressing the energy, inventiveness and joyful noise of its creative community.

Where do we go from here? The first thing we ask is for an explanation of why the University’s offer of the Curator-in-Residence position was withdrawn. Astria Suparak was negotiating in good faith with the University, and many people within the community had worked very hard to make something positive happen in the aftermath of the CMAC/Warehouse Gallery debacle. While the best solution would have been to simply reinstate Suparak at the Warehouse Gallery, the Curator-in-Residence alternative made a lot of sense. Why was the University’s offer to fund and facilitate this new position withdrawn and who withdrew it?

The other question is what is the University going to do to address the critical need for space for faculty and students in the Departments of the School of Art and Design and Transmedia to exhibit their work and interact with the public? Drama and music have dedicated theatre and concert spaces; engineering, biology and chemistry have their labs. Exhibition spaces for the visual and media arts are the equivalent of laboratories in other disciplines. After years of being criticized for low visibility, now in this climate of scholarship in action we find the University’s art galleries and spaces serving other interests. Why does the University choose to ignore the pedagogical and social needs of the faculties and students of its degree programs in visual and media arts?

This community deserves answers to these questions. Awaiting public statements on these issues from the University administration and the College of Visual and Performing Arts,

I remain,


Tom Sherman

Daily Orange -- Matthew Nojiri

[Reposted from here]

Would-be curator loses offer to return to SU

By: Matthew Nojiri

Posted: 11/12/07

Astria Suparak's status as an employee of Syracuse University has flipped once again.

The negotiations to bring Suparak back to SU as curator in residence for the College of Visual and Performing Arts ended almost two weeks ago after she spoke with a media outlet, said Ann Clarke, VPA associate dean.

The university decided to end its negotiations with Suparak, who had been controversially fired as director of The Warehouse Gallery in September, after a front-page article appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of The Daily Orange, Clarke said. In the article, Suparak discussed the plans for her return to the university.

Suparak showed "a lack of faith in the process" by speaking with the media, Clarke said.

"The fact that Astria was speaking to the press was disappointing," Clarke said. "It's the fact that the article took place when we thought we were getting somewhere."

The article misrepresented the complexity of the negotiations, Clarke said, adding that creating the new position was a fragile process.

VPA professor Joanna Spitzner, who is a leader in the Committee to Keep Astria campaign, said she is frustrated by the secrecy surrounding the decision. Most of the VPA professors do not know that the negotiations have ended, she said.

"I know about it and some other faculty do, but they haven't even made the announcement to the faculty." Spitzner said. "They haven't been willing to talk about it. Ann Clarke and the dean need to be the ones to tell the faculty."

Suparak's return was initiated with the VPA faculty, who proposed the idea to Clarke and VPA Dean Carole Brzozowski. The deans approached Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Vice Chancellor Eric Spina about developing a new position for Suparak and contract negotiations began soon after, Clarke said.

"We had deep concerns about our ability to pull this off," Clarke said. "It was a really sensitive proposal. When you add to that challenge that it's going to take place in an environment of controversy, that makes it even more difficult."

The university and Suparak were working to define the responsibilities of the position as curator in residence, Clarke said.

"The issue was whether or not we could bridge the gap between what VPA needed and what Astria had proposed," Clarke said. "That was at the heart of the contract negotiation."

Initially, Suparak proposed to work as a liaison between the college and outside artists - as she had done at The Warehouse. The university was waiting for Suparak to create a new proposal based on their discussions, Clarke said.

"Her desires were not matching up with our needs," Clarke said.

The decision comes after a month of protests, newspaper editorials and letters of disapproval from the Syracuse community to Cantor and Jeffrey Hoone, director of SU's Coalition of Museums and Art Centers.

Hoone fired Suparak from her director post at The Warehouse Gallery in September.

The VPA faculty - who organized a successful boycott of an exhibit at the Schaffer Art Building in October - were excited about the prospects of Suparak's return, said Spitzner, the VPA professor.

"This decision took away a person we really liked working with," Spitzner said. "It was made without really consulting anyone or giving a good reason."

Suparak's firing is part of a growing disconnect between VPA professors and the university, Spitzner said. The faculty wants to be consulted about the decisions made by the administration, she said.

"The faculty really wanted this to happen," Spitzner said. "I can't understand why they're making this decision. They are continuing to make decisions without talking to people."

© Copyright 2007 The Daily Orange

Friday, November 2, 2007

Daily Orange -- Eddie Jacovino

[Reposted from here]

Suparak may return as VPA curator, liaison for arts

By: Eddie Jacovino

Posted: 11/2/07

After a controversial firing in late September, Syracuse University is entertaining the idea of rehiring Astria Suparak.

The news comes after a month of public outcry since Suparak's dismissal as director of The Warehouse Gallery.

Suparak said she has been in negotiations with the university on what SU is calling a "consulting arrangement," and lawyers from the two parties spoke Thursday. Vice Chancellor Eric Spina could not comment on the negotiations, saying they concern a specific personnel matter.

Within a week of leaving SU, Suparak filed a proposal to create the position of curator in residence at the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

According to the proposal, Suparak would still act as a liaison between the school and outside artists and agencies, though she would likely not have a gallery to manage.

"I feel like we've broken though a bit in finding out more information," she said. "I'm really glad that they're receptive to it and that they're looking at it."

The breakthrough follows a successful boycott by VPA professors last week, which resulted in the cancellation of an exhibit at the Schaffer Art Building.

A letter was also sent Tuesday to members of SU's Board of Trustees, which is scheduled to meet today.

"It is imperative that we recruit and retain talented individuals who can contribute to the creative environment of the university and the city to which it is connected," the letter read. "Syracuse University can show itself an innovator in the arts by making every effort to keep Suparak in this community."

The letter, authored by the Committee to Keep Astria, had 23 signatures, said VPA professor Joanna Spitzner, a leader in the group. Most of the signatures came from members of the arts community outside of SU.

Spitzner said the letter and the boycott are examples of Astria's supporters keeping the issue relevant after flooding the inboxes of Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of SU's Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC), in the days following Suparak's dismissal.

"They're being responsive. It's just a slow process," Spitzner said. "We're trying to be patient, but still keep the pressure on."

Word of Suparak's dismissal broke in the weeks before her last day on Sept. 30. She had been director of The Warehouse Gallery since 2006.

Hoone took full responsibility for the firing, which he called a "personnel change." He was supported by Cantor, who said the proper avenues were taken.

But Suparak said her file at human resources doesn't contain a performance review or any document referring to personnel issues.

Instead, her dismissal is considered a layoff.

"We stand by CMAC as the right vehicle to enable the active and engaged interaction with the arts that we want, and Jeff Hoone as the right leader of that organization," Spina said in an e-mail Thursday.

He added that he has been speaking with Hoone and VPA leaders about the future of the coalition, and they expect to have productive meetings with members of the Syracuse community.

If SU accepts Suparak's proposal as it is written, she would report directly to Ann Clarke, associate dean of VPA, and not to Hoone. Clarke did not return efforts to contact her.

In a second statement, written Oct. 18, Suparak said the VPA curator's position would be an opportunity for her to take advantage of her position on the city's Public Arts Commission.

She was voted unanimously to the commission by the Syracuse Common Council days after the university said she would be losing her job at SU.

Suparak said she is serving on the volunteer commission while collecting unemployment and doing freelance work for art magazines. Last week, she was in Pittsburgh, working for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

© Copyright 2007 The Daily Orange


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.