Former Warehouse director offered position at Carnegie MellonMegan Saucke
After her controversial dismissal from Syracuse University, former Warehouse Gallery director Astria Suparak is set to take a new position.
Suparak will become director of the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University on March 1.
"I wasn't that actively looking for employment because opportunities were coming to me," Suparak said. She received job offers in the Northeast, on the West Coast and in Canada from universities, festivals and arts organizations.
Suparak's unexpected firing sparked an outcry from those in local and international art communities. Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers, took full responsibility for the firing. Both he and Chancellor Nancy Cantor declined to give reason for the decision, citing "confidential personnel issues."
Tom Sherman, a professor of video and media theory, said Suparak's firing came down to different visions.
"I think [the administration] had a different vision of what art would be here, and that didn't include this dynamic relationship with the community," Sherman said.
In November, it seemed Suparak would retain employment by SU as curator-in-residence at the College of Visual Performing Arts. But SU ended negotiations after Suparak talked to The Daily Orange about the possible new position.
Suparak's absence is still felt by many at SU. A new Warehouse Gallery director has yet to be hired.
"This is a very difficult setback for us, not only in terms of our image as a community and as a university that we let somebody that was doing a great job go," Sherman said. "It really lessens our capability to compete with good schools like CMU.
Suparak has a strong vision and knows how to engage a community in contemporary art, he said.
"Our loss is their gain," he said.
Yvonne Buchanan, an assistant professor of illustration in VPA, said Supark bridged different areas in the school and the community.
"She's a very creative, dynamic person, and I feel very badly that SU lost her," Buchanan, a VPA professor, said. "But I'm really happy about the fact that she found a place that really appreciates what she can bring to an academic and creative community."
Since her dismissal, Suparak has been busy working on upcoming exhibitions that include her own artwork. She is also writing for publications and serving on panels for art funding.
Once Suparak starts as director of the gallery at CMU, she will be responsible for leading the gallery, directing exhibitions and working with departments in the university. She plans to collaborate with different departments within the university, across the city and with international organizations.
"They really have the ability to interface what they're teaching with what they're showing in the gallery," Sherman said. "Astria was beginning to put that in place at the Warehouse Gallery, but when she was dismissed we really lost that link between what we were doing in our curriculum and was being shown."
"She was extremely thoughtful, she was very thorough, she had a lot of energy and we liked the ideas that she had for exhibitions," said Hilary Robinson, the dean of CMU's College of Fine Arts. "She seems to have a huge body of support from curators and artists out there, and I'm looking forward to working with her in the coming years."
The city of Pittsburgh also drew Suparak to CMU. She said it is "diverse on multiple levels" and has a "thriving underground art scene."
Pittsburgh was recently named "Best Arts Destination in the Country" among midsized cities by American Style Magazine. It is the home of the Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory and the Carnegie Museum of Art, all contemporary visual arts venues.
"It's a wonderful place for artists to live," Robinson said.
And Suparak is thrilled about her new position. "There is such a strong history and reputation at CMU for encouraging experimentation and fostering innovation," she said. "I think the gallery is really well-positioned to assume a leadership role amongst universities."