Kirby with art students

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 Feb. 28.

BOONE — Concerned with the shift in immigration policy the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the rescission of Temporary Protected Status and its particular impact on the Latinx community, artist Stacey L. Kirby turns an eye toward government bureaucracy.

Kirby is a queer artist based in Durham. For more than 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, Kirby’s work addresses issues of identity, citizenship and civil rights.

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

The department will be activated during an upcoming interactive performance from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, March 21. During the performance 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 its 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 N.C. 147 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 partnership with the citizen news magazine, U.S. Ando. Other community partners include Appalachian’s Hispanic Student Association, which will present a community conversation on immigration rights in the High Country in the Parkway Ballroom at Plemmons Student Union at 6:30 p.m. March 14.

“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 now through 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.

The Smith Gallery is a contemporary art space, housed in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. It presents original and traveling 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 a.m. to 5 a.m. In the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, 731 Rivers St., Boone.

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.

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