Gallery Director's Dismissal Ignites Syracuse Protest
By NADJA SAYEJ
The ouster of the founding director of an art gallery overseen by Syracuse University has drawn protest from academics and art professionals there. The director, Astria Suparak, below, of the Warehouse Gallery, said that Jeffrey Hoone, who oversees the university's art centers, had told her on Sept. 7 that she would be dismissed effective Sept. 30. She said he did not give a reason beyond saying that the gallery was being restructured. (In a telephone interview, Mr. Hoone said he could not discuss Ms. Suparak but that he was revamping the gallery's leadership.) Carole Brzozowski, the dean of Syracuse University, said the content of gallery shows organized by Ms. 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 organized since becoming the director last year. (Many have posted protests of her dismissal at syracuse-warehouse.blogspot.com.) Ms. Suparak said of Mr. Hoone: "My aesthetic is very different from his. I'm interested in street art, riot grrl and D.I.Y. aesthetics." A sign at the entrance to the gallery's current show, "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze," reads, "This exhibition contains work generally intended for mature audiences." Ms. Suparak said it was posted at Mr. Hoone’s behest.
Above: Astria Suparak in curated exhibition, Faux Naturel at The Warehouse Gallery (with Thieves by Alex Da Corte).Photo by Amber Goodwyn for Worn Journal.
Syracuse Loses Again
Syracuse is losing one of its greatest assets. Astria Suparak (and partner Brett Kashmere) will be removed from her position as Director of the Warehouse Gallery on September 30. The Yes Men exhibition scheduled to open in November has also been cancelled by the decree of one man, Jeffrey Hoone Executive Director of CMAC (The Coalition of Museums and Art Centers).
If you want to support them write a letter of support.
letter from Nancy Keefe Rhodes, 9/22/07:
[...] 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
Keep Astria! Syracuse Needs Her!
From: An announcement list for the CVPA community on behalf of Tom Sherman
Sent: Sun 9/23/2007 1:44 AM
Subject: Why is Astria Suparak being dismissed?
Dear members of the Syracuse University and City of Syracuse community:
On September 18, 2007, SU's College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Carole Brzozowski stated publicly that she believed "that this decision was based on personnel issues and not based on artistic direction, curatorial programming or previous, ongoing or planned exhibitions at the Gallery." While I disagreed with her analysis, it bothered me even more that Dean Brzozowski had once again used the "confidential personnel issue" defense in connection with the dismissal of Astria Suparak by Jeffrey Hoone. SU's administration, from Hoone to Chancellor Cantor to Dean Brzozowski have been in corporate lock-step in deflecting questions about this contested firing.
SU's administration, by using this 'confidentiality defense' in tandem with phrases supporting Hoone (Chancellor Cantor's form letters say she can't discuss Suparak's termination but in the same breath she states "I trust his [Hoone's] leadership") systematically and unfairly create doubt about Suparak's performance without offering a shred of evidence against her. Every time Hoone or Cantor or Brzozowski use the confidentiality defense in correspondence that simultaneously backs the decision to dismiss Suparak, they are impugning Suparak's reputation, implying that she has done something warranting her dismissal.
The corporate/Syracuse University policy of using "confidential personnel issues" to shield individuals involved in personal disputes or ideally to protect people's reputations, also serves as a means for the corporation to prevent the press or other interested parties from interfering in the corporation's business. Hoone is the Executive Director of CMAC, a Syracuse University operation not governed by a board of directors. Hoone reports directly to the C.E.O. of the corporation, Chancellor Cantor. Hoone's corporate business, in this case the dismissal of Suparak, is an effort to gain complete control of the Warehouse Gallery's programming.
Jeffrey Hoone has actually been quite transparent in explaining his decision to get rid of Suparak in his public communication. To quote Hoone: "It is my responsibility to develop the right mix of organizational structure, skills, talent, teamwork, and substance in order to achieve those goals [Hoone is speaking of his own goals as there is no representation of SU's faculty, students or the broader Syracuse community governing CMAC and Hoone]. Hoone adds: "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." One doesn't restructure an organization because an employee is under-performing in the eyes of the corporation's administration. These 'restructuring' efforts are designed to exert more control over the content of shows at the Warehouse Gallery.
The aforementioned confidentiality defense, designed to shield individuals when disputes arise within a corporation, may also be used intentionally to deflect the scrutiny of those who believe a corporation, in this case Syracuse University, is acting unwisely in dismissing an over-achieving employee. What well-run corporation would dismiss an excellent employee, in this case a Director and curator hired for her vision, for doing what she said she was going to do, with resounding success, when she applied for the job? In fact the only time Jeffrey Hoone has had any input from the community on his decisions is when an eight-person hiring committee advised him to hire Astria Suparak. Now that Hoone has made his decision to reform his goals and restructure CMAC and the Warehouse Gallery in order to support his dismissal of Suparak, let there be no debate about what this ill-advised decision is based on. Hoone, and the administration that backs him, wants control of the content of the exhibitions mounted at the Warehouse Gallery. Make no mistake, this Warehouse fiasco is about the content of Astria Suparak's current exhibition (COME ON: desire under the female gaze), the scheduled but unrealized Yes Men show that Hoone himself cancelled when he fired Suparak, and the promising shows proposed by Suparak for balance of the second year of programming at the Warehouse Gallery.
I ask that Astria Suparak be retained by the University and given the freedom and resources to execute the exhibition schedule she proposed when she was hired. Her proposed exhibition schedule was good enough for the administration to bring her to Syracuse and get her started, and her exhibitions have been embraced enthusiastically by this community and by those far beyond. This community of the University and City has the maturity and intelligence to see through and reject this pre-emptive, conservative corporate act of censorship carried out by Jeffrey Hoone and the administration of Syracuse University. Astria Suparak is being censored if this decision to dismiss her is not reversed. The autonomy and rights of this curatorial position must be reinstated. The content of Suparak's exhibitions is the reason behind her dismissal.
Professor, Art Video
Department of Transmedia
cc: Jeffrey Hoone, Chancellor Cantor, Vice-Chancellor Spina, Dean Brzozows