Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ben Russell

Dear Chancellor Cantor,

It is with no small amount of sorrow that I am writing to you in protest of Astria Suparak's impending dismissal as Director of the Warehouse Gallery. As a media artist, a film/video curator, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Moving Image at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Astria professionally for over seven years, and I have been consistently impressed with and inspired by the inventiveness, drive, and commitment that she has brought to her curatorial practice. Astria's support of experimental, underground, and alternate art practices through her own indefatigable work ethic has been invaluable to the arts community as a whole; as an active member of this community, I am perplexed as to why Astria is being removed from a position that has made manifest her strengths as a curator and has placed Syracuse University at the forefront of contemporary arts exhibition.

From her earlier days as a traveling film/video programmer to her regrettably tenuous present as Director of the Warehouse Gallery, I have been fortunate to bear witness to the growth in Astria's practice. Her dynamic, provocative, and rigorous approach to curation is one that I drew heavily from when I began an experimental film/video series in 2003 called Magic Lantern in Providence, Rhode Island. I invited Astria to show the "Quantum Leaps" program at Magic Lantern in 2006, and it was truly an honor to host her in a space that she had been a source of inspiration for. Since that time, it has been abundantly clear to me that the shows/screenings/lectures that she has organized in her all-too-brief tenure at the Warehouse Gallery are among the best she's ever put together, and while I have not been fortunate to visit any of the exhibitions in person, the press releases/ emails/ postcards I've received always make me wish that Syracuse was the next city over. I envy those who were able to see "Faux Naturel" and "Embracing Nature" and "COME ON," and I certainly sympathize with those Syracuse residents who will be unable to experience Astria's future curatorial projects if Mr. Hoone's inexplicable decision comes to fruition.

In closing, I'd like to say that while I haven't always agreed with Astria's programming choices, I've always been thankful to hear her voice above the din of what tends to be a cautious, careful, and joyless approach to the presentation of contemporary art. Disagreement and dissent are vital elements in the larger conversation that we're all engaged in - Astria's work has been critical in moving this discourse forward, and it will be a true shame if her dismissal comes to pass. While I have no doubt that Astria will move on to better things, the Syracuse community will be hard-pressed to do so in her absence. I strongly urge you to reconsider Mr. Hoone's decision.

Respectfully Yours,

Ben Russell
Visiting Assistant Professor in Moving Image, University of Illinois at Chicago

The Buffalo News Article -- Colin Dabkowski

Claims of Censorship in Syracuse

(Former curator Astria Suparak in the exhibition "Faux Naturel" at Syracuse University's Warehouse Gallery in 2006.)

September 25, 2007
By Colin Dabkowski

There's a fiery situation bubbling up in Syracuse that should be of vital interest for anyone concerned about censorship in the arts. A young curator, Astria Suparak, has been fired by Syracuse University from her position as director of the Warehouse Gallery, a position to which she was named in 2006.

Accusations are being traded back and forth over the firing, which the university characterizes simply and cryptically as "a personnel issue." Hundreds of Suparak's supporters, however, claim that the firing was the result of her unconventional and risque curatorial approach, especially as it applies to the gallery's current show "COME ON: Desire Under The Female Gaze," which Suparak programmed. That the exhibition contains pictures of male genitalia and other potentially "unpleasant" elements is prompting many to speculate that Suparak was fired because her approach was rubbing university officials, like Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Jeffrey Hoone, director of the University's Coalition of Museum and Art Centers.

The most surprising thing about this case so far is the fact that hundreds of people have taken Suparak's side. They have, as is unimaginable for even larger issues in more apathetic communities, actually taken to the streets, as Suparak's supporters did on Sept. 20, to express their frustration over this incredibly unpopular move by the university.

As we've seen in Buffalo with the surprisingly vitriolic debate over the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's decision to sell off important parts of its treasured collection, when the integrity or quality of our artists and institutions comes into question, people rise up and get angry.

The best we can hope, for our community as well as Syracuse's, is that the powers that be listen intently and act according to the public they serve.


Ryan Tebo

Dear Mr. Hoone,

Frankly, I find your response insulting to my intelligence. The sheer
abruptness with which thishas happened and the fact that this is
taking place mid-semester makes it difficult to believe that your
decision is based on "issues related to overall long-term goals and
objectives." If this were true, then you would have done this
restructuring after the end of the spring semester or at least after
the fall semester. If everything is as you say it is, then your
decisions seem rash, irresponsible, unstable and incredibly counter-
productive. However, it is difficult not to be compelled to read a
more sinister intent behind these decisions. This is why people
are responding in the way they are. The most logical conclusion
is that of the many who have suggested that your decision is based
on censoring the content of Astria Suparak's exhibits. You are
apparently responding to something in the immediate, not to the
long term.

I had nothing against you personally before this debacle, and
value your work to build Lightwork, but how do you expect the
community to respond to you when you respond to them with such
insulting disrespect to their intelligence? Are you serving the
Syracuse community or are you serving yourself? Give up your
obstinance and engage the community in a dialogue. The first step
is to retain Astria Suparak as director of the Warehouse Gallery.
After that, a conversation can begin about the long-term goals
and objectives of the Warehouse Gallery. This is a conversation
that needs to involve the community for whom the gallery exists.
Personally, I cannot understand why you would not be proud and
encouraging of Ms. Suparak's success as director of the Warehouse
Gallery. Because of her success I also do not understand why it
is necessary for a major restructuring of the gallery at this point.
What is your vision for the Warehouse Gallery and how can you
possibly justify that it should be your myopic vision alone that
defines its mission?


Ryan Tebo
MFA Filmmaking, Syracuse University

"Dear Mr. Tebo,

A little more than two years ago the Warehouse Gallery was just an idea.
The guiding principle in the inception of the Gallery was the goal of
positioning the arts as an important component of community engagement
by Syracuse University. As such, the Gallery has become an important
venue for the exhibition of contemporary art. We have also defined its
mission so that it can engage the community in a dialogue regarding the
role the arts can play in illuminating the critical issues of our life
and times.

There have been many individuals and groups, both at the University and
in the community, who have played crucial roles in moving the programs
at the Warehouse Gallery forward. As director of the Coalition of
Museums and Art Centers, my role in the process has included helping to
design and conceptualize the physical space of the Gallery, developing
the mission and vision for exhibitions and programs, developing a
windows exhibition space at the Gallery to display installations
commissioned by Central New York artists, and hiring the staff to run
the Gallery.

It is my responsibility to develop the right mix of organizational
structure, skills, talent, teamwork, and substance in order to achieve
those goals. I have made a decision to move forward toward achieving
those goals with a new structure and a revised and broader position for
leadership of the Warehouse Gallery.

This process started with conversations with Ms.Suparak six months ago
and included discussions with other CMAC personnel. These conversations
have also involved staff of Human Resources within a process that
involves confidential personnel issues and issues related to overall
long-term goals and objectives. The final decision was mine.

I am writing to assure you that we recognize the importance of the
Warehouse Gallery and our commitment to strong and inspired leadership
for it. The programs at the Warehouse Gallery will continue to move
forward to achieve its envisioned potential.

I believe it is important to honor the commitment to the artists and to
the faculty who have pledged support to the exhibition "Keeping it
Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with the Yes Men," planned for November
13, 2007 - January 26, 2008. I contacted the Yes Men on September 17,
2007 expressing our support of their work and our desire to continue
with the exhibition as planned. Unfortunately the Yes Men have decided
not to proceed with the exhibition.

I assure you that we will continue with a full year of programming in
the Gallery as we move forward to continue to build the Gallery as an
important venue for the community and for contemporary art in Syracuse.

Jeffrey Hoone
Executive Director
Coalition of Museum and Art Centers
Syracuse University

Emily Roysdon

To Whom it may concern,

The Warehouse Gallery has become an important venue in the recent past and this is in large part due to Astria Suparak's great mind. She was an excellent choice for you to hire, to put your gallery and institution on the cultural map, and it is a severe disservice to all that her firing is overshadowing the potential she initiated. Astria is a powerful ethical eloquent curator with great vision. She is also a woman and a feminist and has been on the front lines of contemporary art for a decade. Your dismissal of her and her programming reveals the weakness of your institution's vision and will damage your reputation for decades.

I believe you should make restitution with Astria.
Apologize to her, beg her to come back. Re-instate her excellent calendar of events and exhibitions. Write to newspapers and admit that you were wrong. Make a scholarship at your university for a brilliant undergraduate female art student to follow in her footsteps. And do it soon, as the whole of the art world is taking notice and your time is running out.


Emily Roysdon

artist, co-founder and editor LTTR

Carolee Schneemann

To All Concerned:

This is my note in support of the remarkable film and exhibit
programs organized by Astria Suparak at the Warehouse Gallery. It is
rare to find someone as dedicated, insightful, inspiring and
knowledgeable as she is in her field. It would be to the community's
benefit to reinstate and to support her creative contribution.


Carolee Schneemann

Alison de Lima Greene

Dear Astria,

Like many of us in the arts community I was shocked and dismayed by the news of your sudden dismissal at Syracuse. As you know, I have had the privilege of following your career since your first internship with Ralph McKay and the Andrea Frank Foundation, and I have always admired your commitment and professionalism. The critical intelligence you bring to all your work is outstanding.

Last year I visited Syracuse while taking part in a conference sponsored by Colgate University and Hamilton College. I was impressed by the remarkable spirit shared by the academic community. It seemed to me that the various schools had created an intellectual synergy that promoted the best in contemporary art and discourse. How disappointing to learn that Syracuse University no longer wishes to partake in such an endeavor.

Please know that despite this setback, your colleagues hold you in the highest regard,

Best wishes,


Alison de Lima Greene
Contemporary Art & Special Projects
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
P.O. Box 6826
Houston, Texas 77265

Roger Beebe

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Roger Beebe, and I'm a filmmaker and Associate Professor of
Film and Media Studies at the University of Florida. Early next
month, I'll be bringing a program of my short films to Syracuse, and
this show is happening thanks to the connections to the local art
scene that Astria Suparak provided me. In fact, Syracuse had only
really come onto my radar screen as a possible stop on my two-month
East Coast tour because of Astria's presence there. Astria has been a
significant figure in the experimental film scene for years now, and
her presence in Syracuse (after years of work as a NY- and then
Montreal-based itinerant programmer) was of note for that entirely
community. Given my sense of the contributions she was making to
Syracuse and to the Warehouse Gallery, it was a shock to hear this
week that her job at the Gallery may now be in jeopardy. I obviously
don't have a sense of the specific situation at the Gallery that
produced this situation, but I can assure you that from the outside,
firing Astria (and subsequently presumably losing her from your
community) will be the final chapter in what has, again from the
outside, seemed to be something of a renaissance in the contemporary
art scene in Syracuse. I can only hope that you'll revisit this
impending decision in the light not just of internal concerns, but
also with an awareness of what this means for those of us in the
broader international community of filmmakers and programmers who
value Astria's work.

Roger Beebe

Associate Professor
Film and Media Studies
English Department
University of Florida

Tara Hogan

Dear members of the Syracuse community,

In regards to Astria's unjustified dismissal, I ask
you all to take a moment to consider how this is
positive. With so much feedback about Astria's stellar
performance, grace, and intelligence, how can you let
such a talented woman go? How would any of you feel if
you were let go without reason?

Syracuse is a progressive place but it is also
struggling due to talented people like Astria leaving
to find a more open minded place to express

I expected more from all of you due to your time spent
in NYC.

How can you all play a role in the arts and let her go
without reason? Do you not have Master's Degrees? Did
you not have ideas to defend at one point? You are all
working on a well respected college campus where ideas
need defense and yet you prove none for Astria's
dismissal. It does not leave an inspiring impression
on the city or SU students.

I am an SU Alum, VPA, 99, and I have lived in this
artistically depressed city for 6 years. FOR THE FIRST
TIME EVER, with Astria's ideas and awareness I have
felt a pulse in the art community, especially on a
high end exhibition level.

I worked with Astria on the TH3 brochure as the lead
designer and was very impressed. She also helped put
forth the idea to produce the design as green as

She cares about this city and wants to raise

I will send this article to the papers and proceed to
raise awareness to the fact that Syracuse loses way to
many talented people due to ignorance, negativity, and
greed. Negative energy produces more negative energy.
If you want a positive effect, have a positive

Tara Hogan

Design / Illustration

Annie MacDonell


Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director, CMAC,
Nancy Cantor, Chancellor,
Eric Spina, Vice Chancellor/Provost,
Carole Brzozowski, Dean of CVPA,

I am writing in support of Astria Suparak. As I am uninvolved in the affairs
of the gallery, and as I do not live in Syracuse, I don't know much about
the circumstances of her dismissal. But it mustn't have anything to do with
her competence, professionalism or creative vision, as all my experiences
and exchanges with Suparak have proved her to be highly capable in those

Some of my work was include in the show Faux Naturel, in 2006. I have
followed the programming at the gallery with great interest since then.
Suparak's curatorial concerns are consistently relevant and intriguing. It
seems a terrible shame to halt her work now, when she has done so much, of
such high quality, in the little time that she has been at work there so

The Warehouse Gallery has becoming the kind of institution of contemporary
art that is worth watching in the short time that Suparak has been there. I
understand that it is also a significant contributor to the art world of
Syracuse as well. If that is true than it is Suparak and her staff that have
made it such. Please reconsider your decision.

Thank you,
Annie MacDonell
Toronto, ON, Canada


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.