Monday, November 12, 2007

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

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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.