Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fereshteh Toosi

Dear Mr. Hoone,

As the newly appointed Faculty Fellow in Arts and Civic Engagement, I openly admit that my relationship with art institutions has been one of critical skepticism. Although I sometimes choose to create and exhibit the first stages of my work on the sidewalks or with the participation of city bus riders, I still rely on non-profit art galleries to house the documentation of my projects. I also rely on these institutions to share a diversity of art works and to act as a library and archive for the kind of projects that need institutional support because they cannot survive in a commercial environment.

It is with this self-interest that I write in regards to the recent changes that are taking place at The Warehouse Gallery. Not because I have some hope of exhibiting in this space, but because I don't want to move to Brooklyn just to find this work. I don't want to move to LA, I don't want to move to Toronto, I don't want to move to Berlin, I don't want to move to London.

In my three years of teaching interdisciplinary art, I have regularly shared the provocative work of The Yes Men with my students. I was looking forward to exploring this exhibit with my CAS 100 first-year writing students through visits and writing exercises designed around the exhibition. It's particularly disappointing because it is a challenge to find traditional resources, much less gallery exhibits, dedicated to the kind of contemporary, socially engaged art work that my course addresses. I was also looking forward to the future exhibitions of Nina Katchadourian and Walid Raad, whom I had the fortune to curate for a lecture series at my graduate alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.

I don't know why changes are happening at The Warehouse Gallery. I do know that I have seen too many university art galleries with conservative exhibitions of pretty work that has no content, or dull work that represents socially acceptable neo-liberal politics. There are far fewer that take advantage of their academic resources to program work that can challenge the sensibilities of audiences in their urban neighborhoods and the intellectuals in their halls.

If you are concerned that community members in Syracuse won't be able to relate to the work that has been programmed and was scheduled to be exhibited in The Warehouse Gallery, then the solution is not to cut back staff. This is the art that is important right now. This is the art that will be representing my generation in future art history textbooks. The solution is not to eliminate curatorial leadership. The solution is to provide, as most successful arts institutions do, full-time staff for education and community programs with school children and town residents. Not to replace curating with education, but to find a way for them to work in support of one another.

To deny the residents of Syracuse of the important work of our time for the sake of being more accessible or less esoteric assumes that "everyday working-class people" are not capable of understanding contemporary art, which is insulting and untrue. If thorough educational programming is provided, contemporary art can engage diverse audiences. U.S. culture has already neglected visual and cultural literacy far too long. By removing Astria Suparak and the kind of curatorial vision she represents, you are only contributing to that deficit.


Fereshteh Toosi
Ford Faculty Fellow in Arts and Civic Engagement
College of Arts and Sciences
Syracuse University

Nancy Cantor

[ a newer automatic response from the Chancellor ]

Dear xxxxx,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about the Warehouse Gallery.

As you may know, I am a strong supporter of the Warehouse Gallery and have been since the idea was originated more than two years ago. I believe it is one of Syracuse University's most critical resources in our efforts to engage the community through the arts.

As Chancellor, I look forward to the continuing dialogue among the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC), the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and our arts community about how we can continue to make the Warehouse Gallery a critical venue for our arts community and contemporary art.

I hope you understand that I cannot comment specifically on what is a confidential personnel matter at the Warehouse Gallery. I have asked Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, to more fully respond to your concerns as I trust his leadership and this is a departmental personnel issue. I have copied him on this e-mail to facilitate his quick response to you.


Nancy Cantor

Chairs of the College of Visual and Performing Arts

Dear Mr. Hoone,

As Chairs in The College of Visual and Performing Arts' schools and departments of Art and Design, Transmedia, Music, Drama, and Communication and Rhetorical Studies, one of our most important roles is to form a productive bridge between the upper administration and our faculty and students. In order to facilitate the goals of our respective areas, transparency and communication are of utmost importance; anything less breeds distrust and division. Your position as Executive Director of CMAC requires a similar necessity for productive bridge building, and results in similar consequences when transparency and communication are not upheld. Needless to say, those in positions of leadership must make difficult decisions. What seems to be more difficult for some is the fact that with effective leadership comes the necessity to stand behind one's decisions by squarely and honestly facing those who are directly affected by such decisions.

As the letters on this blog clearly convey, our community is tight, strong, articulate, intelligent, and absolutely starving for what Astria Suparak has brought to us this past year as Curator and Director of the Warehouse Gallery. Especially for those of us engaged in the visual arts, this space and its exhibitions have provided an invaluable teaching environment for enlivened discussion and critique. Due to Ms. Suparak's strong and imaginative leadership, those of us not specifically engaged in the visual arts have also begun to utilize the space and have developed some exciting plans for the future. It is obviously difficult to understand why someone who has accomplished so much in such a short time could possibly be dismissed. It is equally difficult to understand why you would want to change to a "…new structure and a revised and broader position for_leadership of the Warehouse Gallery" given Ms. Suparak's demonstrated successes in her first year as Director. If indeed these new plans include broader leadership, it is hard to imagine anyone more qualified for that role than Ms. Suparak. At the very least, it would seem quite obvious that Ms. Suparak should be called upon to be at the helm of the changes that you deem necessary, given her irrefutable successes and the excellent relationships she has developed with people on campus, in the Syracuse community, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We hope you can understand why it is difficult to accept that Ms. Suparak's dismissal is related to "personnel issues". Given the long list of Ms. Suparak's concrete successes and accomplishments in her position as Director, one would hope that personnel issues could be reconciled for the much greater good of her continuing as Director of the Warehouse Gallery.

We implore you to further expand your plans for changes at the Warehouse Gallery to include, not dismiss, Ms. Suparak, and to please work out the so-called personnel issues you referred to in your statement. Additionally, out of respect for the mission of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, we expect that from this point on you will consult and communicate with our faculty and students when there are decisions to be made that so clearly affect the curriculum, the faculty, and the students of our college.

Respectfully Yours,
The Chairs of the College of Visual and Performing Arts

Astria Suparak -- Verification of a Yes Men "no"

From: "Astria Suparak, The Warehouse Gallery"
Date: September 19, 2007 1:56:50 PM EDT
Subject: Verification of a Yes Men "no"

It has been confirmed again, today (Sept. 19, 2007), by Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men: They are NOT doing a show with The Warehouse Gallery or Syracuse University because of Jeffrey Hoone's decision to terminate my position as Director of The Warehouse Gallery at Syracuse University.

Astria Suparak

Natalia Mount

Dear All,

As a new comer to Syracuse I, myself, have experienced in the past an 'interesting', to say the least, attitude towards young, progressive and 'foreign to this community' leaders. I have heard many times people say that what Syracuse needs is young and progressive people in order to change the cultural landscape of this city. Although I have heard many people say that, I have met only a few that genuinely encourage, nurture, mentor and promote young leaders in Syracuse.

Age and sex should not be discriminated against, not because it is punishable by law but because it is immoral and unethical.We can all agree on the fact that Syracuse is in dire need for young and competent leaders who are involved in community based initiatives and efforts. What we should concentrate on, is developing these young leaders,
mentoring them and at the same time giving them the opportunity to succeed here in Syracuse. If success is not an option, we will observe what has been happening for a long time - young people will come, stay for one or two years and leave, disappointed and ineffective. We need to change that!

Natalia Mount

Jeremy Bailey

Mr Hoone,

It has come to my attention that the Yes Men exhibit will definitely not take place without Astria Suparak as curator -- in clear contradiction to the reply email you sent me (and everyone else).

I refer to this

I am frankly appalled that you would lead your community to believe you are in control of a situation that in fact you are helplessly incapable of handling.

How dare you. You owe your community and your own office a sincere apology and you owe us an answer.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly call for your resignation, anything less would be as absurd as the action you have taken to remove Astria Suparak from your office.

expecting less,

Jeremy Bailey
Syracuse University Felllow, MFA 2006.

Thon Lorenz

To the administration of The Warehouse Gallery,

Obviously you are aware of the continued disappointment regarding
Astria Suparak's dismissal. I'm writing to remind you that this
disappointment comes from a comunity of thousandas and we will do
everything in our power to vindicate what we see as a grave
injustice. Mr. Hoone, your actions have embarrassed the Syracuse art
community and we will not stand for it.

Thon Lorenz

A. Thomas

Conservatism is Alive and Well at Syracuse University

On the same day that Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. delivered a keynote address on the First Amendment at Syracuse University, members of the University’s Administration are engaged in a deceitful whitewashing campaign. Call it “Operation: Obfuscation,” or “Operation: Let’s See How Long We Can Stonewall Before Everyone Forgets What Is Actually Going On.” (Anyone who has followed the last seven years of Bush Administration doublespeak will recognize this strategy). After recently censoring The Warehouse Gallery’s current exhibition, “COME ON: Desire Under the Female Gaze,” and canceling the upcoming exhibition by internationally-acclaimed, anti-corporate social activists, THE YES MEN, Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of Syracuse University's Coalition of Museum and Art Centers is (mis)informing people (through the aid of an auto-response form letter) that the show will go on as originally planned. This is an outright lie. The Yes Men have made it abundantly clear, to Hoone and to others at the university, that the SHOW WILL NOT GO ON.

“Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men,” curated by outgoing Warehouse Gallery Director Astria Suparak, was scheduled to open TWO MONTHS from now. The real reason for Hoone’s cancellation of this major exhibition, which would’ve been the first of its kind anywhere in the world, has nothing to do with a “new structure and a revised and broader position for leadership of the Warehouse Gallery.” It has everything to do with old school taste, individual greed, conservative university politics, corporate power, and capitalist imperatives.

Kate Clark

I am writing this letter on behalf of the 40 Below Public Arts Task Force (PATF) and our efforts to engage and retain creative people in Syracuse through the arts. Astria Suparak has played a key leadership role on the PATF, a role that greatly contributed to enhancing the credibility and visibility of the Warehouse Gallery in the local community. She has led two Totem Selection Committee Panels, consulted the PATF and City on the placement of the David Hayes sculptures, involved the Warehouse Gallery in the Urban Video public art project, and participated in numerous evening Lipe Art Park and Syracuse Public Art Trail meetings. Astria has offered her much appreciated advice to the PATF Chairs and is very professional. Her invaluable insight as the Warehouse Gallery Director will be greatly missed by all of us on the PATF.

Kate Clark

Chair, 40 Below Public Arts Task Force

Richard A. Destito

To the administration of The Warehouse Gallery

I've been to many of Astria's installations and was writing to show my support for her. The Warehouse Gallery is needed space for "contemporary" art. However like any building or business it's the personality of the people working and visiting in that location that make a place what it is. I think Astria has been doing an incredible job with it. She has brought a lot of life to that part of the town. Many of the installations I've liked very much, some I haven't necessarily liked. Either way though my god, it's nice to feel a heart beating out of one of the few galleries in the area!! If her work has made a variety of people actually "think" or "feel" instead of quickly scooting through the place she has done her job and done it well.

I'm impressed with the quality of her work, you can tell she cares. I believe Astria is very progressive and has that big city feel to her work. More than ever that's what this city needs right now to grow is some progressive thought and for citizens minds to be stretched.

Last, I very much appreciate the sense of feeling an actual pulse in the area!! I believe that has a lot to do with Astria. This pulse I speak of has been the objective of many different people and organizations in the area for city wide revitalization. Once accomplishing that, why would you then kill it? This is about what's best for the Warehouse Gallery, SU, and the City of Syracuse. Lets cut out the politics, people are tired of them. For the city to become all it can be we have to think in terms of not me, not you, but us as a whole, what's good for the group.

I think it would be much more beneficial to embrace Astria's progressive work than to squash it.

Thank you,


Richard A. Destito
Vibrant Syracuse Spaces, LLC
"Making the Best of What's Around"

Paul Salvatore Mercurio, MLA, ASLA, APA

Esteemed educators,

First, I would like to say thank you for everything you do
in improving Syracuse. Your energy and talents are helping to make
Syracuse a desirable community for many different types of people.
However, as the subject line indicated, I'm writing to share my
disappointment in the removal of Astria as curator for the Warehouse

Having encountered Astria in various venues for nearly a
year now, I wish to share how impressed I have been with her
dedication to art, creativity and urbanity. She has been very active
in the Tomorrow's Neighborhoods Today group for Downtown. Her input
has consistently questioned the status quo, and forced many of us in
the community to reevaluate our priorities and how we see the world.
Her activism with TNT is symptomatic of a larger push with Astria to
make the public at large look at the world around us with new vision.

Attending Astria's shows at the Warehouse Gallery have
consistently challenged me to think. They remind me of shows I would
attend when I lived in Boston, Seattle and New York City. At these
showings, art is not some history test of famous names, or a
collection that demonstrates some obscure "great school" of technique.
The art at these shows have been visceral and uncomfortable. They
have made me reevaluate industrial life, my relationship to people, my
relationship to the weather and even my sexuality. Astria's shows
have been beautiful and terrifyingly sublime.

Please keep Astria as curator of the Warehouse Gallery.
She is not conventional, she does not pander to the status quo, and
she is exactly what Syracuse needs.

Thank you for your time.



Paul Salvatore Mercurio, MLA, ASLA, APA

Division of Neighborhood Planning
Department of Community Development
City Hall Commons, Suite 412
201 East Washington Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
City of Syracuse: Community Development

Post Standard Article -- Melinda Johnson

[ original post here. ]

Art community stunned by curator's termination

campaign of blogs, letters, e-mails in support of Astria Suparak has been launched.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
By Melinda Johnson
Arts editor

Syracuse's arts community has been rocked with news of the dismissal of Astria Suparak, director and curator of The Warehouse Gallery. A campaign of blog entries, letters, e-mails, and letters to the editor in support of Suparak has been launched.

Suparak was the first director of the contemporary art gallery, which is affiliated with Syracuse University and housed at 350 W. Fayette St. While she was terminated earlier this month, Suparak will remain on the job until Sept. 30.

At the end of June, Suparak said her boss Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC) at Syracuse University, told her a reorganization was planned and she would report to Domenic Iacono, director of SU Art Galleries. She was told her position would remain unchanged.

On Sept. 7, Suparak said she was informed she was being "let go" during a four-minute meeting with Hoone. She described the meeting as having a "complete lack of clarity" and "decisions were very opaque."

"I'm taken aback by what seems to be dramatic decisions," Suparak said.

On Tuesday, Hoone said a personnel change has taken place. In a press release, he stated that conversations with Suparak began six months ago and included discussions with CMAC personnel and the human resources staff "that involves confidential issues and issues related to overall long-term goals and objectives."

Hoone said the gallery will continue with its mission and work with the community. "We'll go in the direction contemporary artists take us," he said by phone.

He said there will be "no gap" in the gallery's programming. Hoone also denied rumors of the cancellation of the November exhibit, "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism With The Yes Men." "We are working with the artists to see if we can go forward with the exhibition."

Attempts to contact The Yes Men were unsuccessful.

Mick Mather, special projects coordinator at Cultural Resources Council, has worked with Suparak on two downtown public art projects and community outreach efforts.

"She's young, smart, very good at what she does," he said. He has been impressed to have "someone so forward-thinking."

Her departure will disrupt the connections she has forged with younger artists who are producing emerging art forms - electronica, technology and short films, Mather said.

"That is something that's going to be stunted," he said.

As with any "corporate behemoth," Mather said, a six-month paper trail is common when an employee is terminated. Of the process, he said, "it's never really transparent enough for the person who's going or the community."

Suparak, 29, said she accepted the position as director and curator of The Warehouse Gallery in June 2006 because it offered the ability to create a new contemporary art space from the outset.

She acknowledged that there had been some difficulties. "I thought we had dealt with each one effectively." She pointed to the success of her five major exhibitions, collaboration with international artists, media attention and turnout of 300 to 400 guests at opening receptions.

Suparak will host a Thursday reception for the current exhibition, "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze," considered by some to be controversial for its sexual content.

Karyn Riegel

To the administration of The Warehouse Gallery

I am shocked and deeply disappointed to learn that curator Astria
Superak has been fired from her position at the Warehouse Gallery. I
have followed her programming avidly since she began working with the
Warehouse Gallery, and I know I am not alone is attesting that her
innovative work was largely responsible for putting Syracuse on the
cultural map. Her dismissal is a tremendous blow to the central New
York arts community, and a great loss to all of us who appreciate Ms
Superak's unique curatorial vision.

I had the opportunity to work with Ms. Superak in NY at media
exhibitions at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and Anthology Film
Archives nearly 9 years ago. Even at this early stage in her career,
Ms Superak demonstrated a consummate professionalism that earned
deserved respect from her peers and from the artists she worked with.
Her curatorial projects are consistently innovative and raise
important questions. Rather than propose a didactic position, Ms
Superak's curatorial approach creates an opening for questioning and
debate, which is the perfect approach for a University gallery.

Ms. Superak's dismissal will seriously discredit the Warehouse Gallery
within the US arts community in years to come. I truly hope the
administration has the foresight to reverse this decision.

Karyn Riegel

Daily Orange Article -- Megan Saucke

[ original posting here.
The Daily Orange September 19 2007]

Art Directors Firing Stuns Syracuse

The sudden firing of The Warehouse Gallery's director left many in the Syracuse University community shocked and dismayed.

For most, including the dismissed director, Astria Suparak, the decision was mysterious and unexpected.

"I haven't talked to one person who wasn't shocked and appalled," said Allison Fox, a College of Visual and Performing Arts graduate student.

Recent SU graduate and former intern at the gallery Katie Skelly called the decision "unthinkable. … I really can't imagine what she could have done to make them fire her."

Jeffrey Hoone, executive director of the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers, took responsibility for Suparak's firing.

"Nobody else made this decision for me," Hoone said. "I made this decision in consultation with the human resources department."

Suparak, who has worked as curator and director of the gallery since June 2006, was given notice this past week. Since then, e-mails have been flying back and forth among faculty, students, artists and curators from all across the country trying to figure out what Hoone's reasoning could be.

The future of an upcoming exhibit by The Yes Men, a group of activists, has been in question since the announcement of Suparak's termination.

The Warehouse Gallery Web site stated that the exhibit had been canceled. This provoked a public outcry, especially from professors who had invested in it financially and had already incorporated the exhibit into their curriculum.

Hoone announced that he plans to work to keep the exhibit on the schedule and that he never canceled it in the first place.

Suparak, however, believes otherwise.

"He definitely told me it was canceled, and I asked very specifically," Suparak said.

Either way, there is a question whether The Yes Men will even do the show anymore without Suparak as director.

"I don't think they're going to come here without Astria," says Joanna Spitzner, a professor in the Foundation program at VPA. Hoone "hasn't developed that relationship with them."

"This is a bad decision that's really going to have serious implications for the future of the city's cultural life and spirit," said Tom Sherman, a professor of video and media theory.

Sherman said the firing has more to do with the current exhibit, "COME ON: Desire Under the Female Gaze," than The Yes Men. He said the original title of the current show contained the word "feminist," and Hoone demanded it be censored out.

Suparak agreed that Hoone did not want the word in the title of the exhibit. She said she had to change the title two additional times because Hoone didn't like the revised title.

Hoone denied that there was any controversy surrounding the exhibit.

An informational postcard about the exhibit was withdrawn from the prepared packages for first-year students at the last minute. The decision to do so was made by members of the Chancellor's Cabinet and Office of Public Affairs.

Suparak said she was surprised by this action because the design had been specifically approved for the packages.

The question of why Suparak was fired has still not been directly answered.

"I was not given a reason when I was fired," Suparak said. "He told me that he had high standards, and this was really confusing to me because I really feel like I've done a lot with my time here."

Hoone said legally there are things he cannot disclose. When asked to be more specific about Suparak's shortcomings to justify his decision, he began discussing window displays.

"This is personnel change," Hoone said, "in order to get the best mix of people and resources together to do that."

Supporters in Syracuse and across the country have mobilized in support of Suparak. A letter-writing campaign started at

Suparak's supporters said she has fulfilled the gallery's mission beyond expectations. VPA professor Spitzner said Suparak has an "ability to connect with really interesting artists."

n fact, some have moved to the Syracuse area because of their desire to work with Suparak.

"I was looking for a job already, but meeting her really convinced me to take the job at Syracuse," said Frank Olive, assistant director at The Warehouse Gallery

Students also said she was doing a great job in enriching their experiences.

"She's definitely making this place younger, hipper, which we need desperately," said Stephanie Koenig, a VPA graduate student.

The blog, which was created in response to her firing, has an outpouring of support from the community. Many posts have mentioned surprise that Chancellor Nancy Cantor has not come out in support of Suparak.

Jan Pottie, a personal friend of Suparak's, said Suparak is very involved with committees having to do with Syracuse's art community such as the Public Arts Task Force and the Public Arts Commission.

Those supporting Suparak said her dedication and involvement in bridging the gap between the university and the downtown community runs parallel to Cantor's own vision of the Connective Corridor.

"Astria is organized, conscientious and precise," Pottie said. "But what really sets her apart is that she treats every exhibition as a work of art in and of itself, often adding elements of her own to enhance the experience of the audience."

"Imagine Syracuse actually has a good football team for once, and we have a really good coach, and then suddenly that coach is fired," gallery intern Skelly said.

"Clearly what The Warehouse Gallery has been to this community has been very active and dynamic and valuable and that is completely recognized," Ann Clarke, VPA associate dean, said.

The overwhelming support for Suparak has not made Hoone doubt his decision, however unpopular.

"I feel very confident in the decision," he said.

Suparak, on the other hand, is devastated by the decision.

"I had been working on the next two years of programming, and that was very exciting for me," she said. "It's too bad that everything's been canceled by what seems to be the position of one person."


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.