Sunday, September 16, 2007

Katie Skelly

Dear Ms. Cantor,

My name is Katie Skelly, and I am a recent graduate of Syracuse
University, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History in May,
2007. I served as an intern at the Warehouse Gallery from January
through May in the Spring 2007 semester. I fondly recall this as not
only one of the best working experiences I have ever had, but also as
one of the happiest, due to the wonderful chemistry between Gallery
Director Astria Suparak, Intern Coordinator Elaine Quick, and
Installation Director Frank Olive. I was thrilled with the all of the
possibilities that the Gallery provided me to learn and grow within my
field, as well as all the potential it had to turn Syracuse into a
respected city for contemporary art, and so I am absolutely appalled
at the decision to remove Astria Suparak from the Warehouse Gallery.

The first time I met Astria Suparak was after I had submitted my
resume to the gallery regarding my interest in working there during
the Spring Semester. When Astria interviewed me, I could tell she was
not just looking for free labor, which so many internships
unfortunately turn out to be. She wanted to know if I knew what was
going on in contemporary art, design, and the art market- things I was
studying on my own and barely gleaning from the University's limited
art history program I was enrolled in. She spoke with the utmost
sincerity about her vision of making Syracuse not just an art scene
for students, but for involving the entire community. Some of the
tasks which I was assigned by Astria were to create online profiles
for the gallery, making sure to get the attention of local businesses
and community groups, as well as non-University residents of Syracuse;
another task was to physically distribute publicity materials
throughout campus as well as to local restaurants, cafes, stores, and
community centers. We advertised our gallery openings everywhere
possible and welcomed all members of the Syracuse community to enjoy
our exhibitions. As I would scan local newspapers for reviews, I
would find that our shows were always held in the highest regard.
Additionally, Astria also organized tours for local schoolchildren
through our exhibitions, as well as community shows such as one to
benefit a local pet shelter. I struggle to find a better example of
the "Soul of Syracuse" campaign at work, and Astria's warmth and
approachability always made our gallery an amazing place to be.

Astria's ambitions for the Warehouse Gallery were always high, and her
determination to fulfill her visions never wavered. Her incredibly
thoughtful show, Faux Naturel, was critically acclaimed and even
travelled to Canada, and the artwork she chooses is always challenging
but never pretentious or deliberately obtuse. She has a superb eye for
details and always knew exactly the right touches to make anything
from a press release to a mailing list to an entire exhibition look
interesting and fantastic. I am not exaggerating when I say I learned
more from working with Astria Suparak and the rest of the Warehouse
Gallery staff about the world of art than I did in my entire four
years studying art history.

And now to receive news that Astria will be removed from her position
as Gallery Director at the Warehouse Gallery shocks and infuriates me.
At a time when a so-called "enlightened" campus continues to openly
reject sculpture given to us by our late alumnus Sol LeWitt (with no
mention of his recent death mentioned in any campus publication), at a
time when the campus teaches no critical undergraduate courses on
contemporary art and art theory, at a time when there is only one
other contemporary art gallery regularly attended by students at
Syracuse University, removing the head of an already successful
contemporary art gallery is not only foolish, but stops all progress
in making the city of Syracuse a more diversified and culturally rich

The decision to remove Astria Suparak absolutely must be reconsidered.
She has done more for the "Soul of Syracuse" program than anyone could
have asked of her, and has taught me more about art than any class
ever could.

Katie Skelly

Emily Vey Duke

Dear Mr. Hoone,

I am writing in my capacity as Program Coordinator for Transmedia in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University to register my confusion and dismay over the cancellation of the upcoming Yes Men exhibition at the Warehouse Gallery.

Transmedia is an emerging field that focuses on artists and practices at the interstices of methodologies and disciplines. The Warehouse Gallery under the stewardship of Astria Suparak has provided an invaluable locus for discussion of the ideas that form the core of Transmedia. The upcoming Yes Men exhibition would have provided students with a perfect example of the formal and conceptual underpinnings of Transmedia art-making, and as such I was relying on the show (and its ancillary lectures and screenings) as a focal point for my curriculum this semester. Like a number of other faculty across a range of departments at the school, I find myself scrambling to fill holes in my syllabus in the wake of this decision.

I also understand that there are imminent personnel changes afoot at the Warehouse, and although I don't know exactly what that means, I am alarmed. I have been working closely with Director and Curator Astria Suparak to bring Paul Chan (Transmedia artist recently featured on the cover of Art Forum and in the 2006 Whitney Biennial) to Syracuse, and have been looking forward with great enthusiasm to Suparak's upcoming programming--including the Waliid Ra'ad exhibition that was to accompany his presentation at the 2008 Syracuse University Symposium.

It's absolutely not my intention to second guess internal decision making processes at CMAC. I am aware that there is much I don't understand and don't want to appear to be presumptuous. That said, I would like to share the insights that am privy to due to my position.

I work with all the first year students who enter the new Transmedia program at SU. These students come to the department with virtually no sense of what it means to be an artist in contemporary society, let alone a Transmedia artist. The Warehouse Gallery has been the one and only place in Syracuse that illustrates what that looks like, and Suparak has proven herself to be an excellent translator for my students, shifting information out of the rarefied vernacular of high-art into a language they understand and can invest in. I'm going to be frank: it's hard to persuade young people that contemporary art is important in the world at large, let alone relevant to them personally. Without the model Suparak provides at The Warehouse Gallery, I'll be fighting with one less weapon in my arsenal.

This is how I see The Warehouse Gallery fulfilling it's mission (as stated on the website) of "engag[ing] the community in a dialogue regarding the role the arts can play in illuminating the critical issues of our life and times." My students come away from the programming at the Warehouse challenged but talking. They aren't bored, they aren't alienated--they're excited! The work begun by Suparak at the Warehouse allows me to carry the project of Transmedia at VPA forward, and for that I am grateful.

With my sincere thanks for your time and attention,

Emily Vey Duke
Visiting Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator
Department of Transmedia
College of Visual & Performing Arts
Syracuse University

Joanna Spitzner

September 14, 2007

Jeffrey Hoone
Executive Director
Coalition of Museums and Art Centers
Syracuse University
350 West Fayette Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

Dear Jeff,

I am quite dismayed to learn that the exhibition "Keeping It Slick:
Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," planned to open in November
at the Warehouse Gallery, has been so abruptly cancelled. I urge you to
reconsider this decision. The exhibition in particular, and the
programming at the Warehouse Gallery in general, has a great deal of
support in the University and the city arts community.

I find it quite unusual for an exhibition to be canceled at such a late
date. Astria Suparak had contacted me along with many others about this
exhibition in July. My department was planning to contribute funding to
this exhibition and concurrent events, as were others. I have presented
the work of the Yes Men in my class for several years and looked forward
to opportunity this show would have offered to my students. Their work
engages in important questions, such as the role of corporations in our
society, and the possibilities of performance and creative media as a
method of inquiry. The exhibition promised to provide a unique
opportunity to examine the work of The Yes Men since its formation.

As someone who, in the past, has worked extensively in non-profit
exhibition spaces, I feel that I have an understanding of the process of
developing arts programming. I find it to be incredibly unprofessional
to cancel an exhibition two months before its scheduled opening. This
has derailed much work by your staff, the artists, and faculty. The
planning involved in mounting such exhibitions is integral to building
upon the arts community here. That no explanation has been offered
raises many questions about how decisions are made, what kinds of art
are supported, and what role the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers
at Syracuse University intends to play in the arts community.

The Warehouse Gallery has been a much-needed and welcome addition to
this community. In a relatively short period of time, it has launched
several thought-provoking exhibitions of national importance. Last year,
it presented a series of exhibitions that explored our relationship to
our environment by presenting a range of work that touched on ideas of
the natural, the artificial, and the climate. This programming has
garnered strong attendance as well as recognition in the local press.
One of its exhibitions, "Faux Naturel," traveled to the Foreman Art
Gallery in Quebec. Astria Suparak, the Director of the gallery, has
shown that she is able to present creative works with a great deal of
intelligence and passion, while at the same time she has fostered a
diverse network of artists and creative individuals. Her work and that
of her staff has been important to both Syracuse University and the city
of Syracuse. These communities have expressed that a rich cultural
community is vital to its existence. The Warehouse Gallery has
contributed to this landscape, providing a place for artistic and
intellectual inquiry. Its successful programs have shown that Syracuse
can support contemporary art that is not often seen in a city of this

I ask you to re-think your decision to cancel the Yes Men exhibition. I
feel this decision undermines the positive efforts of your staff, the
many departments that support this exhibition, and the diversity of the
arts community in Syracuse.


Joanna Spitzner
Assistant Professor
Department of Foundation
School of Art and Design
College of Visual and Performing Arts

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

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


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.