The Carrack's Mission

The Carrack empowers artists to forge productive cultural and socio-economic ties with the local community through professional exhibit and performance opportunities in a zero-commission art space.

The Carrack is an artist-centered, volunteer-run, zero-commission art space in downtown Durham, North Carolina that hosts short, rapidly rotating exhibitions, performances, workshops, and community gatherings.

The Carrack proudly supports the work of creators who are underrepresented in the art world at large, including artists of color; queer and trans artists; and artists who are emerging, experimenting, or producing temporal and/or site-specific work.

We believe art is an invaluable asset – a resource for cultivating relationships, strengthening communities, and sparking political change. We seek a reimagined arts ecosystem: one that is accessible and collaborative, one that is unbounded by discipline, age, class, race, ability, gender or other identities.

All artists and organizers use The Carrack for free and keep 100% of what they make from sales if they choose to sell their work. The Carrack is entirely funded by grassroots donations. Find out how you can support this work here.


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.


From the moment The Carrack opened its doors in June 2011, the space has played an essential role in a rejuvenated Durham, North Carolina arts community. To date, The Carrack has exhibited work by over 1000 visual artists and hosted over 150 exhibitions in addition to numerous performing arts events.

The Carrack was founded by Laura Ritchie and artist John Wendelbo in a second-floor space on Parrish Street. Its objective was to provide exhibition and performance opportunities for local artists as well as a gathering place for community creatives and an incubator for Wendelbo’s Durham Sculpture Project.

Originally the gallery space was funded by community donations and a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2011. Throughout 2012, Ritchie and Wendelbo formalized the gallery’s operations, establishing a juried exhibition model and performance calendar. The Carrack also secured nonprofit fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas. In early 2013, Wendelbo relocated to New Mexico and left The Carrack in Ritchie’s hands.

Ritchie assembled a team of volunteers, advisors, and community stakeholders to expand and redefine 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.

In June 2016, on The Carrack’s fifth anniversary, the organization relocated to a first-floor space at 947 East Main Street.

In June 2018, Laura Ritchie departed as The Carrack’s Director, after seven years of dedication, and with The Carrack firmly on its feet, entrusted the project to new Director, Saba Taj.

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 their 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 have supported The Carrack. The gallery’s present fundraising model has four components:

  • The Muse Masquerade: An Annual Fundraiser each October
  • an annual artist-supported fundraiser, 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 three 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. In its time, its fast and sturdy design 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.