About the Carrack

Our mission: To empower local artists to forge productive cultural and socio-economic ties with their community through professional exhibit and performance opportunities in a zero-commission art space.

The Carrack is an artist-centered, volunteer-run, zero-commission exhibition and event space in downtown Durham, North Carolina. The space hosts a new exhibition every two weeks, as well as frequent performances, workshops and creative gatherings. The Carrack is devoted to providing creative opportunities for artists who are:

  • emerging and seeking inaugural exhibition space
  • experimenting and seeking a departure from an established art practice
  • marginalized and belong to a non-dominant culture
  • producing work that is radical in content and/or imagery
  • creating temporal, site-specific work
  • seeking a central gathering space unbounded by discipline, age, class, race, gender or other identities

A short history of the Carrack

If you open your doors to everyone, then everyone will come in. From the moment the Carrack opened its doors in June 2011, this artist-centered, community-run, zero-commission gallery and alternative events space has been an essential part of a rejuvenated Durham, North Carolina arts community, making it one of the liveliest and most substantial art spaces in the Southeast. In its first four years, The Carrack has exhibited work by almost 500 visual artists and has hosted over 100 exhibitions in addition to numerous performing arts events.

The Carrack was founded by current director Laura Ritchie and sculptor/welder John Wendelbo in a second-floor space on Parrish Street. Its objective was to provide exhibition and performance opportunities for emerging artists as well as a gathering place for community creatives to support Wendelbo’s Durham Sculpture Project. Exhibitions were established at up to two weeks in length and were not juried until the end of 2012.

Originally the gallery space was funded by community donations and a crowdfunding campaign in late 2011. Ritchie ran all aspects of the Carrack’s programming and operation while Wendelbo focused on broader development. Throughout 2012, Ritchie formalized the gallery’s operations, establishing a juried exhibition model and performance calendar. She also secured nonprofit fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas. Wendelbo’s artistic career took him to France for a project in summer 2012. He eventually left the Carrack, relocating to New Mexico in early 2013.

Currently Ritchie is expanding and redefining the creative vision of the Carrack while moving it toward a sustainable funding model that remains true to its origins: artist-centered, community-run, zero-commission. The Carrack has stabilized its current support through a fundraiser every October and a Carrack Sustainer donor program.


Why is The Carrack a zero-commission gallery?

Perhaps the better question is: What do emerging artists need to become career artists? At The Carrack, we believe that artists need opportunities to express their unique vision with complete creative freedom. They need to be able to determine every aspect of the exhibition of their work, without commercial concerns, in order to take that next step in their career.

The Carrack provides artists those opportunities through self-curated exhibits and events without the pressure to sell work. A commission model, to some extent, determines the kind of artwork that a gallery can show; some work must sell for the gallery to make its commission. By letting artists take complete ownership of their art and its presentation, The Carrack alleviates the need for sales and facilitates direct interaction with the audience.

The Carrack puts the artist squarely at the epicenter of all of its efforts. The space is yours; do something great.

“The space is yours.” What exactly does this mean?

Exhibiting artists have full control of all aspects of their exhibitions. Artists receive their own set of keys and design their show as they wish. Our hope is that each artist transforms the space into something that reflects and compliments his or her body of work.

The artist has the responsibility to put on a great show. The Carrack’s future depends on the quality of effort that each artist puts into each exhibition. Carrack staff and volunteers are available to help by request, but we do not dictate the show.

How does The Carrack stay open?

The Carrack is run 100% on donations from individuals, organizations and businesses. A crowdfunding campaign initially opened the gallery’s doors. Since then, tax-deductible donations (made through Fractured Atlas, our fiscal sponsor) have supported The Carrack. The gallery’s present fundraising model has four components:

  • an Annual Fundraiser each October, as part of a week of events to raise operations money, raise awareness of the gallery and its mission, and to support the artists who’ve shown at The Carrack
  • a Red Dot Art Sale each December, for which artists donate small artworks with low, set price points
  • the Carrack Sustainer program, through which supporters pledge a monthly, tax-deductible amount that’s paid via autodraft
  • higher-level sponsorships, both for general operating expenses and in support of specific exhibitions or events

Why are Carrack exhibitions only two weeks long?

We cultivate the expectation of creative urgency by keeping exhibitions short and by programming our calendar densely. As much as is possible, we want the whole run of an exhibition to have the energy of the opening reception. This pace also allows us to provide exhibition opportunities to as many artists as possible.

Where did the name “The Carrack” come from?

A carrack was a 15th-century ship. Its fast and sturdy design allowed European explorers to conquer the high seas and, ultimately, to discover a whole new world. In its time, the carrack offered a platform for discovery. Likewise agile and transformative, The Carrack is a platform for artistic exploration from which artists can connect with their community in new ways, discover new routes of expression and chart unique, creative careers.

Nondiscrimination statement

The Carrack does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, or any other basis proscribed by law, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, audience, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

The Carrack is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.