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 Modern Art provides a conduit for artists to connect with their community through self-curated exhibits and performances in a space that is NOT commercially driven. We have found that this framework changes the kind of art that can make its way into the public domain. By letting the artist take complete ownership of their art and its presentation, we facilitate a more honest and direct interaction with their audience. We believe in art as a vehicle for intellectual, cultural and socio-economic growth and we also believe it is the community’s responsibility to collectively support the arts — it’s a societal choice, and it’s that simple.

The Carrack is owned and run by the community, for the community, and maintains an indiscriminate open forum that enables local artists to perform and exhibit outside of the constraints of traditional gallery models, giving the artist complete creative freedom. Our grassroots approach facilitates a dynamic conversation between the arts community and downtown Durham, one that directly fuels its ongoing revitalization.

A note on the Carrack Modern Art, from co-founders, John Wendelbo and Laura Ritchie.

The Carrack was founded by Laura Ritchie and John Wendelbo and opened its doors to the public in June 2011. Since then, The Carrack has hosted a new exhibit every 2 weeks, featuring work by local artists in group and solo exhibitions, punctuated by a myriad of shorter artistic events that include outdoor projections, slam poetry, film screenings and musical performances.

The unfamiliar but meaningful name “The Carrack” refers to a pivotal 15th century ship design that allowed European explorers to conquer the high seas and ultimately discover a whole new world. In that time, a carrack offered a platform for discovery. The Carrack (the space) aims to be a platform for artistic exploration, from which artists are able to exhibit their work, brainstorm and tap into a fluid, yet solid, spatial, cultural and social framework. We intend that the Carrack provide a sturdy platform to help with the artist’s growth and endeavors.

The Carrack puts the artist squarely at the epicenter of all of its efforts. The space operates on a zero-commission, no-strings-attached basis, and we encourage artists to use the space for solo exhibits or mindful collaborations, allowing them to show their work as a whole, as a body of work rather than just a couple of works amongst many on a crowded wall, as is often the case in group shows, salon galleries, co-ops etc…. The artist should use the space to put his or her full artistic identity in the spotlight.

A few points:

  • The space is strictly free and zero commission. Any and all sales go directly to artist, we facilitate the sale but aren’t even part of the transaction.
  • The artist can have the space for up to 2 weeks. This allows us to promote a sense of pace and provide opportunities for exhibits to as many artists as possible. We want folks to come to the openings, crowd the space and have fun, and return the next week for a new event! If you miss the show you have a few more days to come by during open hours but then it’s time to move on. Show’s up!
  • The artist has full control of all aspects of their exhibit. Artists receive his or her own set of keys and organize the space as they wish. Our hope is that each artist transforms the space into something that reflects and compliments their body of work.
  • The artist has the responsibility of putting on a great show and the future of the space as a whole depends on that effort that each artist puts into each exhibition. We are here to help but we do not dictate the show, the onus is on the artist! We believe that by encouraging artists to take control and do their best, they will.
  • We stay open and organize shows solely on our merits and donations from the community. To the community we say: you have a choice whether you want this space and these energies to exist on Parrish Street. If you believe that this endeavor is worthwhile for Durham, then support it. Collectively, it’s a straightforward matter to keep the space open at very little individual cost.

A little history:

The Durham Sculpture Project set the wheels in motion for this project. Its momentum helped secure and negotiate the terms for the space, sweat equity from a few early-day visionaries gave us the means to restore it. Early on we paid rent solely on grassroots donations (typically $5-$20) given by individuals at our receptions. Then, through the amazing support of the Durham community and those connected to it, we raised $12,000 through a Kickstarter campaign in December 2011. With those funds, we were able to secure to space for the entirety of 2012 and continue to move this project forward.

This is a completely novel (and fairly radical) approach to an art space. It differs profoundly from both the co-op/artist membership model and from the boutique/salon gallery model, and of course, differs even more so from the commercial gallery model. It also asks for something a little unusual from the community; it asks for support and faith in a system, an idea, a philosophy, a process, something that doesn’t even really yet exist. We ask the community to support us and allow the process to reveal its dividends over time. We must trust the Arts, and the Artists to do their work! It puts Durham on the map in a very interesting way, a way that spells novelty and collective ambition, and our success, with the continued support of the community, will be something to be proud of – these are some of the gutsy projects that will, in time, become an integral part of Durham’s creative fabric and history.

It is our hope that we will all consider supporting this proposition: an artist-centered, fluid, dynamic, fast-paced art space that serves as much as a gallery space as it does an incubator, a platform and a catalyst for creative endeavors. Both the Durham Sculpture Project and The Carrack Modern Art began their affairs with absolutely no seed money, not one dime, and yet through stubbornness and perseverance, through good will and gusto and community support, we really have already achieved quite a lot – together!

Thank you for reading and we look forward to seeing you at the Carrack.

John Wendelbo and Laura Ritchie, Carrack co-founders