Thursday, December 6, 2007


In late September 2007, Ms. Ann Clarke, Associate Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, informed me that she was working to create a position for me in VPA at the request of its faculty. This position, created specifically for me with my input, was to be funded by the Chancellor's Initiatives and administered by VPA. Ms. Clarke wrote, "The faculty call for your being brought into VPA , is in significant part due to wanting an even more engaged forum of connection between your work and curriculum." I understood this outreach on the part of VPA as an opportunity to build on the positive relationships I forged with various faculty members, many of whom brought classes to my exhibitions and events, and sponsored lectures, class visits, and critiques by the artists involved in my exhibitions. The VPA professors staged a unanimous boycott of the annual faculty exhibition to protest my dismissal and the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers' lack of dialogue with its constituents.

At VPA's request, I proposed a Curator-in-Residence position informed by research into other residency models and with the advice and input of diverse city residents and professors. After submitting my proposal for this position to Ms. Clarke, there was little follow-up or discussion about how my proposal related to the needs of VPA as perceived by its leadership, or how my proposal was being considered or modified by the administration of VPA.

In the only meeting I had with Ms. Clarke and Ms. Eleanor Ware, Senior Vice President for Human Services and Government Relations, which I was told to arrive alone to, Ms. Ware began with accusatory innuendo about my dismissal and personnel file. She did not allow for questions or a discussion to clarify these issues, because she said she wanted to focus on the future and not the past. Ms. Ware and Ms. Clarke seemed to want to confirm my interest in a position in VPA , but said the terminology used in my Curator-in-Residence proposal, such as "proposal," "position," and "program," could not be used in the new "mutually acceptable arrangement going forward." I was asked to arrive at a second meeting with Ms. Ware and Ms. Clarke to review a draft legal agreement to settle my last position at The Warehouse Gallery and to outline the new contracting services with VPA. I expressed discomfort about attending another meeting alone, to which Ms. Ware replied that the university's lawyer would be present at the next meeting. Thus, I was required to hire an attorney in order to continue negotiations with Syracuse University.

On October 29, I met with Ms. Clarke and Ms. Carole Brzozowski, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, along with two professors, Ms. Joanna Spitzner, School of Art and Design, and Mr. Tom Sherman, Department of Transmedia. In this meeting, Ms. Brzozowski and Ms. Clarke were explicitly reassured by Ms. Spitzner and Mr. Sherman that the position I proposed had the support of VPA faculty. Everyone present seemed to agree that I would positively contribute to the College.

Syracuse University's lawyer provided my attorney with the contracting agreement on November 2, 2007. Less than a day later, Syracuse University withdrew the offer. The reason for this turnabout, provided by Ms. Clarke, was that I spoke to the student paper, The Daily Orange, a day prior. Yet within the same article, titled "Suparak may return as VPA curator, liaison for arts," Vice Chancellor Eric Spina was also quoted. In this article I was quoted about the possibility of working with VPA in positive and general terms: "I feel like we've broken through a bit in finding out more information. I'm really glad that they're receptive to it and that they're looking at it." University administration, including Ms. Clarke, never told me that speaking to the press would compromise this new position.

Ms. Clarke later stated that VPA leadership was focused on creating a position to meet the specific needs of VPA. However, in previous discussions between VPA faculty and administration, it was the faculty and student support of my curatorial work and their desire to retain me in Syracuse that led to the possibility of the Curator-in-Residence position. In yet another strange twist, Ms. Clarke and Ms. Brzozowski announced on November 12 their intent to pursue the Curator-in-Residence position (without me), because the faculty had clearly shown support for it. This occurred after they officially withdrew the proposal we had been working on together. When asked during this meeting why negotiations with Ms. Suparak had ended, Ms. Clarke stated that VPA administration couldn't get past the "nuts and bolts" issues (such as office space), and since "there seemed to be no progress," they decided to "cut their loses" and withdraw the offer. Contrary to what Ms. Clarke told me privately and the media publicly, she did not invoke the Daily Orange article as a reason for cutting off negotiations in this meeting. What Ms. Clarke and Ms. Brzozowski failed to acknowledge was that the Curator-in-Residence position is something I created, drafted, and proposed, in dialogue with university faculty and members of the Syracuse community, in response to VPA's vocal support of my work and their request that I remain at Syracuse University.

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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.