Letter in support of the curator Astria Suparak
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
College of Fine Arts
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
January 24, 2014
To Dan Martin, Dean of the College of Fine Arts,
As an alumnus of the College of Fine Arts (BFA 1993) and an artist who has worked with Astria Suparak, I was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the extraordinarily misguided decision to eliminate the position of Director of the Miller Gallery. Forcing the dismissal of Astria Suparak, precisely at the moment that her profoundly intelligent and critical curatorial work is receiving the greatest attention and acclaim on an international scale, shows enormous ignorance of what a loss this will be to Carnegie Mellon, its students, to the city of Pittsburgh, and to the many that observe Suparak’s work with great interest from afar. Why make this change now following the landmark feminist exhibit “Alien She” that has been such a massive success for the gallery? Who is this decision supposed to benefit?
Five years after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, I co-formed the collaborative art group Temporary Services. We have had the good fortune to work with Astria Suparak on two exhibitions at the Miller Gallery: an exhibit devoted to our project and newspaper “Art Work”, and the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial. In both instances, Suparak proved herself to be easily one of the most fearlessly intelligent, imaginative, detail-oriented, ethical, and responsible curators we have ever worked with in our fifteen year history. We show images from both of these exhibitions in nearly every lecture we give because of the beautiful and expert installation of these shows that happened under her leadership.
I find it particularly unsettling that there is nothing on CFA’s Facebook page or on the page of the Miller Gallery about Suparak’s removal. Please know that as people learn of this decision, there will be an outcry, and quite possibly a strong backlash against Carnegie Mellon University, the School of Art, and the College of Fine Arts. Astria Suparak is a well-loved curator whose outstanding body of work is meaningful to thousands beyond Pittsburgh. The cancelation of her job, and her subsequent dismissal will not be taken lightly or forgotten quickly.
I would urge you to avert what is sure to be a very negative reaction to your decision, and reinstate Astria Suparak in her position immediately. Her work is the primary reason I continue to pay attention to Carnegie Mellon as an alumnus, and her departure will leave a terrible void for the students and community that have benefited from her passionate and memorable work at the school.
(member of Temporary Services; administrator of Public Collectors)