Saturday, September 22, 2007

Post-Standard -- Forum

by syrakatzmeow, 9/22/07 13:42 ET
Re: Astria Suparak by sean, 9/22/07

In regard to the firing of Astria Suparak - Maybe you should be looking into the way that Jeff Hoone became "king of all art" of Syracuse. For many years, I was witness to the shoddy treatment afforded members and visitors to Community Darkrooms by Mr. Hoone, while those who could "contribute" to his cause (his own climb up the ladder of success) were were welcomed with open arms, and ingratiating gestures. For example, upon Nancy Cantor's selection as Chancellor, he pulled strings as fast as humanly possible to secure a painting for the University in her name by her favorite artist Sol LeWitt, and who knows what else. The next thing we knew, he is given dictatorial control over all art shown at the University - and then he went for the EVERSON! Thank goodness that Sandra Tropp had the backbone to stand up to this shameless comer!

It should be obvious to anyone who has seen the kind of tripe that Mr. Hoone has served up for years at the photography, and now, art galleries at SU that the main reason behind his having fired Ms. Suparak is that she has the kind of vision and ability to bring truly innovative, cutting-edge work to Syracuse that has eluded him. He was never qualified for this "king of all art" position - and HE is the one who should be released - and possibly replaced by Ms. Suparak!?


The Yes Men

Dear People,

Thanks for all the support and encouragement regarding the canceled Syracuse show. We should make it clear that the only reason we agreed to do the show in the first place was because of Astria Suparak's curation and dedication to making it happen.

When Jeff Hoone contacted us last week to ask if we would mount the show despite her firing, we told him that we would not.

Surprisingly, this did not stop him from communicating to the press that we were going to do the show, which seems to have resulted in a bit of confusion.

In closing, just to be clear: we will not do the show in Syracuse without Astria. We are a bit baffled about why it was canceled in the first place, but the only man to ask about that is Mr. Hoone, and from our limited experience with him, extracting the truth may require something of an expert in that kind of activity, and we certainly want no part in that.

Best Wishes,
The Yes Men

Lisa Jong-Soon Goodlin

To whom it may concern:

As a member of the search committee that hired Warehouse Gallery director Astria Suparak and as someone with a long association with Light Work, I have more than a passing interest in the events that have taken place at the Warehouse Gallery and concern for the parties involved.

There is no question that Astria is a valuable asset to this community, evidenced in part by the incredible outpouring of support seen on this blog. In my opinion, she has done a wonderful job at the gallery, and it is a mistake to let her go.

However, I am writing this letter for another reason.

While this blog for the most part serves as a testimony to Astria¹s talent, vision, and commitment to both the university and the city of Syracuse, it also has become a place for people to speculate on the reasons for her dismissal. This speculation is understandable; the constraints Jeff Hoone is under regarding the discussion of confidential matters prohibits him from directly addressing, much less defending, his decision, and leaves people with a maddening lack of information.

Writers have suggested that Astria¹s being Asian-American is a possible factor in her dismissal. And I can say without any doubt that if indeed Jeff made this decision alone, ethnicity played no role.

Jeff has been at Light Work for twenty-seven years. In that time, and largely through Jeff¹s vision and leadership, the organization has grown, thrived, and become internationally respected for its championing of artists of color. Light Work is not one of those organizations that merely talks about culturally diverse programming. Light Work, through Jeff¹s guidance and leadership, genuinely serves all artists, not just the white male ones, and not just during Black, Asian, or Latino History Month.

So, lament or protest Jeff¹s dismissal of Astria, as I have to Jeff personally, but please refrain from veiled, or not so veiled, accusations of racism.


Lisa Jong-Soon Goodlin, Chair
Light Work Board of Directors
Syracuse, NY

Martha Williams

I just had the chance to read the paper this morning, and I had not been aware of the controversy surrounding this firing, but knowing Jeff as I have for almost 25 years, what I do know for sure is that content of any show, would never be a reason that Jeff would use to fire anyone. Jeff is the original envelope pusher himself, and has been a supporter of gargantuan proportions for artists with a wide span of messages to deliver. I also know how Jeff has personally struggled with any firings he has had to do in the past. He has never taken any firing lightly. So if Jeff says that there are reasons behind this firing, that the public cannot be aware of at this time, I trust Jeff's word.

Interestingly, one blogger suggested that the next person may be a male, I guess suggesting that the firing was gender based discrimination. Again, knowing Jeff and his regard for the "person", NOT the gender, race or religion is one of Jeff's impeccable qualities. Jeff has always had the incredible ability to look past the robe to the heart and voice of that person.

So before anyone steps up to crucify, let them first realize that they understand that there is always "the rest of the story", and the popular opinion may not always be right.


Martha Williams

Edmund Cardoni

Dear Jesse Frasier,

Could you please post the poll question “Should Astria Suparak be retained/reinstated as Director of The Warehouse Gallery?”

I would vote YES to that wholeheartedly, which would mean Jeff Hoone would have to reverse what has clearly shown itself to be a wrong administrative decision on his part, as demonstrated by the virtual unanimity—or at least overwhelming preponderance—of pro-Astria postings from Syracuse U., Syracuse artists, and professional colleagues across the country.

But I don’t necessarily see grounds for Jeff’s resignation in that, which would just mean two valued contributors to our field would be out of jobs. (I would, however, join in calling for Jeff’s resignation if this really did turn out to be about censoring the Yes Men show, or controversial shows—or even just funky ones!—as a general policy.)

>From their own blog comments, there seem to be people in Syracuse, unfortunately identifying themselves only as “Anonymous”—which I feel is cowardly, by the way—who obviously just don’t like Jeff, and would just as soon see him gone, on this pretext or any other that might arise. But I think our goal should be Astria’s reinstatement, and not Jeff’s resignation.

And I have no basis on which to vote for the dismantling of the CMAC, just because Jeff made the wrong call in this case, or might even be the wrong guy for the job. SUNY at Buffalo (a.k.a. UB) has a Director of UB Art Galleries, Dr. Sandra H. Olsen, who is a great administrator, supportive of her curator’s initiatives, and courageous in her support of provocative and controversial exhibitions of contemporary art in both university and community contexts. So such a structure can work, as long as it’s directed by the right leader, as UB’s is.

Whether Syracuse U.’s is appears seriously in question.


Edmund Cardoni
Executive Director
Hallwalls Cointemporary Arts Center
Buffalo, NY


NEWS: Gallery Director’s Dismissal Ignites Syracuse Protest

The ouster of the founding director of an art gallery overseen by Syracuse University has drawn protest from academics and art professionals there, reports Nadja Sayev for the New York Times. The director, Astria Suparak, of the Warehouse Gallery, said that Jeffrey Hoone, who oversees the university’s art centers, had told her on September 7 that she would be dismissed effective September 30. She said he did not give a reason beyond saying that the gallery was being restructured. Carole Brzozowski, the dean of [the College of Visual and Performing Arts at] Syracuse University, said the content of gallery shows organized by Suparak had nothing to do with her dismissal. But people in the arts at Syracuse, including university art teachers, asserted that the ouster was related to risk-taking or innovative exhibitions she had organized since becoming the director last year. Suparak said of Hoone: “My aesthetic is very different from his.”


James Gendron

Dear Mr. Hoone, Ms. Cantor, Mr. Spina and Ms. Brzozowski,

I am writing to lament the dismissal of Astria Suparak, curator of the Warehouse Gallery, and to beg you to reconsider. Over this past year, Ms. Suparak's work has repeatedly and gloriously brought me face-to-face with actual works of art—in Syracuse!

I am an MFA student in Creative Writing at SU. I have lived here for two years, yet I am continually amazed at the artlessness of this town. Last year, it seemed that things were improving. The advent of Th3—a monthly, community-wide night of art—and, especially, the rise of the Warehouse Gallery, gave me reason to hope. Astria's work there has been nothing short of miraculous. I moved to Syracuse from New York, where I attended multiple gallery openings every week, and the Warehouse is the only gallery in Syracuse I would put on the same block with them. This is a metaphorical block. Forgive me—I've been studying creative writing for too long.

The work she chooses to display, if I may generalize, is both challenging and welcoming—a rare, wonderful combination. The example that comes first to mind is the recent exhibit "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze." This show had a clear agenda—reversing the ubiquitous "male gaze" that has dominated almost all art, forever and ever. In lesser hands, it could have easily come off as a mere polemic. In Ms. Suparak's hands, it was just a great art show. The works employed a variety of techniques to make their points, but the principle technique was an overwhelming humanity. I felt like I was part of a discussion instead of an argument. Some of it was downright hilarious—who could have predicted one woman's feeling of emptiness after a tryst with the lead singer of Poison? Come on, he's in Poison.

I want to point out that I don't know Ms. Suparak personally, nor am I writing this message under any kind of duress from my friends, many of whom are similarly concerned about this situation. I am writing as myself: a reluctant Syracuse resident who needs his art.

Please rehire Ms. Suparak. I'll buy you coffee, I'll shovel your driveways all winter, anything—just please rehire her.


James Gendron

Nancy Keefe Rhodes

[ Original posting here.
The Post-Standard, September 21 2007 at 12:09pm ]

a note from a reader:

Dear Sean,

[...] I'm writing here in response to your coverage of the arts community's response to the firing of Astria Suparak. I wanted to address something else briefly about the current show at the Warehouse. Besides bringing together artists from the northeast US centers and Canada so that Syracuse is an exciting artistic cross-roads, this show in particular is an exciting reflection of national trends in women's art.

Beginning last year, the Feminist Art Project (now based at Rutgers) began a series of events, symposiums, landmark exhibitions and traveling shows to commemorate the growth and current status of Feminist Art from the 1970's onward. While the uninformed (and the hostile) might think that "feminist art" is passe, out of date, a decades-old ancient history, these events suggest something else entirely.

Last winter, the Museum of Modern Art's week-long symposium on the future of feminist art was packed. Then the opening of the Sackler Center of Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, which unveiled the new permanent home of Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party" and opened with the show "Global Feminisms," featuring younger women artists from around the world. There's been the WACK! exhibition on the West Coast, and the year-long celebrations in Washington DC of the 40th anniversary of the National Women's Art Museum. These events have revealed a lively and crowded field of women artists, and a mainstream museum and gallery structure that still under-represents them.

As a project of Women's Voices Radio/WAER 88.3 FM, Joan Burstyn and I undertook a project last winter to produce a series of shows that would link this national activity with CNY artists' work and concerns. Joan and I attended part of the MoMA symposium. Following up that trip, I returned to the Brooklyn Museum for the opening of the Sackler Center and the Global Feminisms show of younger artists. We produced four hour-long installments of "Visual Arts Near and Far" that aired on Women's Voices, boiled down from many hours of interviews with women artists, art educators, curators, collectors, & critics.

My point is that "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze" is right in tune with this surge of national activity. We know this because we went out of Syracuse to find that activity, interview people and look at work. And Astria Suparak brought a piece of that to the heart of downtown. "Come On" is a terrifically important and contemporary show to have in Syracuse and, far from being a fringe production, it's right in the flow of traffic of current larger art thinking and practice.

Nancy Keefe Rhodes


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.