Exhibition brings students and community together to explore rituals of citizenship

Civil Presence by Stacy Kirby

Under the current administration, the past two years have seen dramatic shifts in immigration policy including a national reduction of refugee resettlement, increased immigration enforcement, travel bans targeting primarily Muslim countries, the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the rescission of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Concerned with this shift and its particular impact on the Latinx community, artist Stacey L Kirby turns an eye towards the mundane spaces and processes of government bureaucracy through which issues of citizenship and immigration status are negotiated.

For a commissioned project with the Smith Gallery at Appalachian State University this spring, the Durham, NC based artist has created “the Department of Civil Presence”- a site specific installation embedded along a corridor of administrative offices in Edwin Duncan Hall. It is loosely based on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, with a nod towards the vintage aesthetics of post World War II era office culture.

Civil Presence by Stacy Kirby

Art students Elle Greene, Damalis Caraballo, Luna Grey, Thomas Colantuono, Valentina DiGiacomo and recent graduate Garrett Hawkins with artist Stacey L Kirby (on lower right) before the inaugural performance of Civil Presence on February 28, 2019.

The department will be activated during an upcoming interactive performance on Thursday, March 21 from 5-7pm. During the performance in Edwin Duncan Hall visitors will be asked to undergo an assessment of their civil presence that engages rituals of citizenship, from the filling out of governmental forms to pledging allegiance. These assessments will be led by Kirby along with students and community members performing as officers during the event. According to the artist, the performance is an opportunity for participants to reflect on processes of representative democracy and the ways that national identity is symbolically conferred and represented through everyday interactions. 

To accompany the installation and performance, the gallery is featuring a selection of Kirby’s past projects at it’s home location in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Along with video documentation of some of Kirby’s other performance works, students in the Art Department have created a large scale mural based on Kirby’s Yo Soy Vàlida billboard that was shown along the Durham Freeway in the months leading up to mid-term elections in 2018. The message of the piece, “I am Valid,” boldy affirms the presence of Latinx people in the US.

Ando, a citizen news magazine, operated by local teen Raffaell Vazquez and his family, that broadcasts editorial videos through its youtube channel to the latinx community is the media partner for the project. Other community partners include Appalachian’s Hispanic Student Association, which will present a community conversation on Immigration Rights in the High Country on Thursday, March 14 at 6:30pm in the Parkway Ballroom at Plemmons Student Union.

Stacey L Kirby: Civil Presence is part of the Smith Gallery’s occasional series of exhibitions that brings art to the region to foster community dialog around contemporary political issues. It will be on view at the Smith from February 28-March 21 during normal business hours at the Schaefer Center and at Edwin Duncan by appointment. The exhibition, performance, and immigration rights event hosted by the HSA are free and open to everyone in the community to attend.


Stacey L. Kirby: Civil Presence
February 28-March 21 2019
At the Smith Gallery at the Schaefer Center 
With installations embedded in Edwin Duncan Hall

Immigration Rights in the High Country \ Community Discussion
Thursday, March 14, 6:30-8:30pm
Parkway Ballroom at the Plemmons Student Union
Presented by the Hispanic Student Association, Student Government and ASU Police

Interactive Performance and reception with the artist
Thursday, March 21, 5-7pm at Edwin Duncan Hall Rm 114

About the Artist

Stacey L. Kirby is a queer artist based in Durham, North Carolina. For over a decade, Kirby has combined installation and performance to create 'performative interactions' in alternative, private and public spaces. Fueled by the current political climate and ethnographic research, her work addresses issues of identity, citizenship and civil rights. Kirby invites visitors to become active participants and performers in her work to empower the voice within all of us.

Kirby is a recipient of the ArtPrize Eight Juried Grand Prize, a NC Arts Council Artist Fellowship for Visual Artists along with many other awards. Her work takes place in environments ranging from traditional art spaces,to vacant historic buildings and billboards. Kirby has performed and exhibited at ArtPrize (Grand Rapids, MI), the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (Winston-Salem, NC), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Bard College, Flux Factory (Queens, NY), and Fraction Workspace, (Chicago, IL).

About the Smith Gallery

The Smith Gallery is a vibrant contemporary art space, housed in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. It presents original and travelling exhibitions, features work by faculty and students at the university, and commissions daring new art in all of its forms. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. In the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, 731 Rivers Street, Boone, NC 28608. Contact Jennie Carlisle at carlislejk@appstate.edu for more information and if you would like to schedule a time to see the Edwin Duncan installations. Admission to all gallery programs is free.