Chavez is passionate about the possibilities of art. As a curator she sees her job as “bringing people to the art not just to understand it but participate in it, knowing that it can be a great force in their lives.” She also understands some of the challenges. “People are really outspoken, often with negative comments like ‘I wouldn’t pay much money for that.’ I enjoy the conversations. It’s important to have dialog with the community and find out what kind of issues they have. I’m an educator so I’m always interested. I’m convinced that both parties can learn, not just the person who has the degree.”
Being a curator involves a lot of behind-the-scenes research, negotiation and management of practical details, yet Chavez emphasizes her direct interactions with the public. “As a curator I see myself as a link. Bring something that builds upon what’s in place and. . . help people discover that art matters. You bring artists to them in the hopes that they discover the richness, the potential and the meaning for themselves.”
This time last year the Warehouse Gallery was embroiled in a controversy concerning the dismissal of its first curator, Astria Suparak. Her supporters included professors from SU’s Visual and Performing Arts College who boycotted that year’s annual faculty exhibition. The timing led to speculation that Suparak’s last exhibition Come On: Desire Under The Female Gaze—which featured pencil drawings of recumbent boy-toys ejaculating on each other (Juliet Jacobson) and a blow-by-blow video recounting how “My Sister Fucked Bret Michaels” (Rachel Rampleman)—had something to do with it.
Joanna Spitzner, an assistant professor and vocal supporter of Suparak, still harbors resentment about the decision but bears the successor no ill will. “I wish the best to Anja Chavez in her position,” said Spitzner. “I think she is in a tough position; there is still a lot of healing to do.” When asked about the brouhaha, Hoone replied, “I think it’s way over. The gallery and what we’re trying to accomplish is bigger and more important than the discussion about one person. This is a great time for the arts in Syracuse. Moving forward and continuing that good work is the best thing to be doing right now.”
The Warehouse Gallery will host a reception for the artists involved in their latest exhibition, Dreams of Promise and Peril, on Thursday, Sept. 18, 5 to 8 p.m. Chavez will be on hand for the event. Call 443-6450 or browse www.thewarehousegallery.org for more information.