Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Faculty of the Department of Transmedia

To: Nancy Cantor, Chancellor
Eric Spina, Vice-Chancellor
Carole Brzozowski, Dean of CVPA

In light of the dismissal of Astria Suparak from the Warehouse Gallery on September 28, 2007, the faculty of the Department of Transmedia will not participate in this year’s Faculty Exhibition in the SU Art Gallery in the Shaffer Art Building. The loss of Ms. Suparak, a dynamic, successful curator of contemporary art at the Warehouse, effectively diminishes our dialog with our colleagues and students and with the broader community. We have all lost as a result of the decision to dismiss Astria Suparak.

Further, the formation of and administrative direction of CMAC, to the exclusion of other options, have left media and visual art students and faculty with very limited local options for the exhibition of their work. A suitably staffed and funded gallery space (or spaces) needs to be put in place to serve our pedagogical mission in the media and visual arts. This space or spaces must permit the independent actions of professional curators, under the guidance of an advisory board representative of faculty, students and broader community, to deliver contemporary art of substance to our media and visual arts community, a constituency willing to embrace the development and celebration of a creative practice which is representative of the diversity of all its constituents.


The Faculty of the Department of Transmedia

Rebekah Scotland and Kenneth White

Dear Chancellor Cantor:

We write with sincere concern for our alma mater. The circumstances surrounding the removal of Astria Suparak from directorship of the Warehouse Gallery raise grave questions against the ability of Syracuse University to offer a welcome environment to "interactive and collaborative" learning, which you call our "great strength." As students, we were thrilled by the interdisciplinary opportunities opened by your Creative Campus initiatives. We watched Syracuse University blossom under your guidance, and we followed your lead. Through the monthly Spark Video Program, Thursday Screeners media forum and visiting artist series, Diversity in the Arts exhibitions, the Sparkettes Video Collective for women, and the Westcott Community Center Video Program, among others, we strove to answer the Syracuse community's hunger for cultural enrichment. You showed us that direct, on-the-ground participation can affect positive difference on the local, national, and international levels. We recognized the importance of this mission and service, we devoted ourselves to it, and for our efforts we were honored as Syracuse University Scholars. We were, and remain, deeply passionate about the cultural excellence of Syracuse University, and as such we feel obligated to speak.

Suparak's termination is antithetical to the institution we devoted ourselves to, and that honored us. We have both independently written letters to you registering our grievance with CMAC Director Jeffrey Hoone's actions against Suparak and the arts community of Syracuse University. We write again now, together, to re-state our alarm, in hope that the events of the last month may be rectified, and to offer our assistance in preservation of the generative communication we fully know is found at Syracuse University.

The success and positive contribution of COME ON is without doubt. Throughout her tenure as Warehouse Gallery Director, Suparak has advanced the Syracuse arts community to previously unattained levels of relevance and admiration, and her value to this community is well documented. Suparak is an asset necessary to the realization of Scholarship in Action.

No justification for Suparak's removal has been provided by Hoone beyond "personnel changes" and "management restructuring." In July 2007, he aggressively ridiculed Suparak's curatorial judgment and demanded justification of COME ON: Desire Under the Female Gaze, its artists and works, calling the exhibition "weak and seriously flawed." Hoone forbid use of "feminist" in the exhibition title. In July, Hoone's first option of discussion with Suparak was "canceling or postponing the exhibition." Then, in his 22 August 2007 letter to SU Director of Communications and Media Relations Matthew Snyder, Hoone completely contradicts his statements of July and defends Suparak through regurgitation of Suparak's own defense demanded by himself. Two weeks after Hoone's written 'defense' of Suparak, he fired her.

Hoone's July 2007 correspondence with Suparak presents more than just difference in aesthetics. He reveals a hostile work environment loathe to non-heterosexual male perspectives. Hoone is not only ignorant of feminist history and aesthetics specifically, he is unwelcome to the generative communication on which Syracuse University is founded. We find Hoone's actions totally unacceptable.

Furthermore, Hoone chose to reveal that you convened four male university administrators (Tom Walsh, Eric Spina, Barry Wells, and Kevin Quinn) to "discuss the issue" of the exhibition's timing. No women, nor members of the greater Syracuse arts community, participated in this review of female sexuality whose ruling was censorship of Suparak's exhibition: approved advertisements were pulled from ReadySet new student welcome materials and Hoone's harassment of Suparak continued to her unexplained termination. We are left to imagine that Hoone's letter of 22 August, implicating you and your administration in the censorship of Suparak, was an attempt at a strategic defense in preparation for his imminent termination of Suparak. Chancellor Cantor, do you still "trust his [Hoone's] leadership?"

The evidence of this situation leaves us with many questions.

Why did Hoone voice his concerns about COME ON so late in the exhibition's planning? Why did he completely contradict his criticism two days before the exhibition's opening, then fire Suparak two weeks later? Why did Hoone cancel the Yes Men exhibition (Suparak states that she "asked him specifically" about this action)? What are the 'restructuring' plans for the Warehouse Gallery that Hoone claims are the reason for Suparak's dismissal? Why were no members of hiring committee that nominated Suparak consulted on her termination? Why were no members of the Syracuse University arts community consulted on her termination?

We ask you to please re-instate Suparak to directorship of the Warehouse Gallery. We believe there is opportunity for Syracuse University and the Syracuse arts community to benefit from the attention this issue continues to garner. Please exemplify the great character we devoted ourselves to, love so much, and know to reside in Syracuse University.

Thank you for your time and attention. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Rebekah Scotland
B.F.A. 2006
University Scholar

Kenneth White
B.F.A. 2005
University Scholar

Vice President and Provost Eric Spina
VPA Dean Carole Brozowski

Marisa Arezzi

October 1, 2007

I am writing in support of Astria Suparak, her commitment to and work at the SU Warehouse Gallery, and her overall contributions appropriately recognized by the greater Syracuse community. I was very sorry to learn of her dismissal and am distraught by the predictable, scripted explanation delivered by Jeffrey Hoone. I have read the events surrounding her termination and find it more surprising that Jeff Hoone hired a woman of her background and stature in the first place. It is out of character.

How unfortunate that Jeff's appointment to his current position went so quietly under the radar. This is a job that was created for and handed to him at a 'private reception'. One would think that such an important post would demand a national search. The lack of accountability has been present, by design, from the beginning. Comments made by Nancy Cantor regarding his "leadership" show ignorance of his career and personality.

In the matter of Astria Suparak, Jeffrey Hoone is nothing more than a mouthpiece.

In the US our human rights and constitutional freedoms have been steadily eroded in the name of fear, money and power. The dismissal of Astria Suparak is part of that erosion. We will probably never know who made the decision to dismiss her, when it was made, or for what reason.

I hope the tremendous outcry of support offers some thanks to Astria for sharing her vision and extraordinary talents.

Marisa Arezzi
Metropolitan New York

The Faculty of The Department of Art

Nancy Cantor, Chancellor
Eric Spina, Vice Chancellor/Provost
Carole Brzozowski, Dean of CVPA

In light of recent administrative and staffing decisions that have taken place within the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers (CMAC), we as the Department of Art voice our concern as to the vision and direction of this University sponsored initiative. The firing of Astria Suparak and the cancellation of the Yes Men exhibition without wider consultation or regard to the effects of these actions upon the faculty, students or greater Syracuse community, point to larger problems within SU galleries as an institution. These recent decisions made by CMAC are consistent with its short but problematic history: acting without transparency to the exclusion of the constituents it proposes to serve.

Having grown increasingly frustrated by being marginalized in all curatorial, exhibition, and staffing decisions in the galleries and museums maintained by Syracuse University we find that the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers does not serve one of its primary missions. That is to support and work in concert with the educational, creative, and scholarly pursuits of faculty and students. Like faculty in many other departments, many of us developed a relationship with CMAC through working with Astria Suparak to tie curricula and pedagogy to the challenging and innovative curatorial programming brought to the Warehouse Gallery. Through opaque decision making processes that impact the whole of our campus and local communities the separation between CMAC and the greater community has grown even further. Such decisions cannot be made alone without also communicating an indifference to those also affected by the decisions and thoughtlessness towards other community members.

In protest to the method in which CMAC has made decisions at the exclusion of faculty, students, and community members, the Department of Art will not participate in the up-coming Faculty Exhibition at the SU Art Galleries. We insist that the administration reevaluate the termination of Astria Suparak and consider how Astria could play a greater role in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, evaluate how CMAC serves the university community from the perspective of its constituents, and develop an advisory board of faculty, students, and community members to whom CMAC accountable.

The Faculty of The Department of Art


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.