Durham Community Art Space, The Carrack, to close in September 2019

June 25, 2019

Dear Friends of The Carrack,

After over eight years of exhibits, events, and community programming, The Carrack’s staff, Board of Directors, and Advisory Board have made the difficult decision to close the gallery at the end of September 2019. With our fundraising to date, The Carrack has been unable to generate enough revenue to continue supporting its operations. While we are deeply saddened to bring this project to its endpoint, we are proud of what The Carrack has collaboratively built with our community.

The Carrack has been a beacon for the Triangle arts community from its Parrish Street beginnings. Our mission has been centered absolutely around artists—supporting their vision, their process, and their work especially when it challenged the restrictive norms of the art world. We chose not to take fees or commissions from our artists and eschewed the typical art auction fundraising model. Instead, we turned to the generosity of the arts community to sustain us through widespread, small donations and volunteered time and expertise.

The Carrack started by signing a month-to-month lease on a space and seeing if we could scrounge up the next month’s rent in donations in a plexiglass box by the door—a wonderful, wild concept for an art space. This model also meant existing on a shoestring budget in order to remain devoted to our mission. Our first lighting system was PVC pipes and clip lamps. Volunteer staff brought toilet paper from their closets at home for the gallery restroom. Our furniture was curb finds. But it had great energy, produced great work, and attracted great people, so we carried on.

Durham and The Carrack have changed, however, as has our awareness of the inequities in the field of nonprofit arts organizations. Many interacting factors led us to our decision to close, including rising organizational costs, pressures to institutionalize, our relocation away from downtown, and recognizing the dire necessity to pay our staff fair, living wages.

In 2017, co-founder and director Laura Ritchie prepared to transition out of her position, after seven years of full-time work with little to no compensation. The possibility of new leadership challenged us to face the financial constraints created by our previous dependency on a director who could work unpaid. We strove to create an appropriate support structure for incoming staff and welcomed the leadership of current director, Saba Taj. Over the past year, we have continued to pursue possible solutions to an essential problem at The Carrack’s core—we have never been able to adequately pay staff for their labor.

A few months ago, we learned that Saba Taj and longtime Carrack staff member, Kerry Crocker, would be resigning to pursue new opportunities. These vacancies pushed us to take another critical look at our model. We questioned how to fulfill the positions and remain accountable to our core mission—to honor the dignity of labor in the arts. The ethical and material consequences of inadequate staff pay have come into sharp focus this last year, and we have chosen to break this cycle of inequity by speaking honestly about these issues, and by not bringing new staff into these circumstances. This decision was made carefully, and not without struggle, in collaboration with all members of our staff and Board teams.

We celebrate the many artists and wealth of programming we have had the pleasure of hosting over these years, and the abundance of the Durham arts community in this vibrant, complex city. Thank you to all who transformed The Carrack with your creations, your volunteering, your donations, and your patronage. Without you, we were just an empty room. With you, everything felt possible—and was, for a while.

Our second Sticky Note Show Fundraiser will happen as scheduled this week. Opening night is Thursday, June 27th from 6–9pm.The funds raised will help us meet our closing costs. Under North Carolina law, and in alignment with our mission, any remaining assets will be redistributed to other nonprofit, artist-centered efforts. We will continue to host exhibitions as scheduled through August and are working with partner organizations in Durham’s art community to place remaining shows in new venues. Our much-anticipated Fashion Week will happen as planned September 13–15. Our very last exhibit will be a Community Show organized by members of The Carrack’s founding team, on display August 30–September 20. All artists are invited to bring their work.

Thank you—so much—for participating in this terrific project called The Carrack for all these years. While the story of The Carrack includes many triumphs, it also highlights the difficulties that are widely felt in arts communities. Art brings brilliance to our lives. We need art, and artists need our support. We hope you will join us at The Carrack in the coming months to celebrate this project, its supporters, and its artists. Together, we will dream for the future. This work never ends, it only changes form.

Sincerely yours,
Kerry Crocker, Jameela Dallis, Marla Hawkins, Jessica Kemp, Jim Lee, Annick Le Goff, Laura Ritchie, Wendy Collin Sorin, Saba Taj, Chris Vitiello, Tim Walter, Carin Walsh


Saba Taj, Director, The Carrack
The Carrack Board of Directors