DURHAM — High, textured ceilings, a black wood floor, one wall of windows and one of bare brick make up the single second-story room. Track lighting illuminates artwork hanging on nails.
The Carrack Modern Art gallery at 111 W. Parrish St. in downtown Durham looks like many other spaces devoted to art.
But the Carrack has an unusual business model.
Its a commission-free gallery that lets artists pocket 100 percent of their sales most galleries take a 10 percent to 40 percent cut and counts on community donations to pay for its space.
I feel really strongly that artists should not have to pay for space to show their work if its good work, said Laura Ritchie, 24, the Carracks co-founder, partner and curator.
A Kickstarter campaign and donations raised $12,000 for 2012. Now the Carrack is looking to 2013. Its new annual fundraiser, Community Color, is a week of events leading up to a gala Saturday night.
Artists have donated original work for a live auction with all of the proceeds going to the gallery. Dan Ariely, a New York Times bestselling author and behavioral economist at Duke Universitys Center for Advanced Hindsight, will lead the auction.
Ritchie hopes the gala will help keep the gallery going.
Our model is completely idealistic, and I think very possible, she said. But I think its going to take some time to get our message out to enough people to make it work.
Lindsay Gordon, artist services manager at the Durham Arts Council, said the Carrack serves an exceptional spot in the regions art scene.
The Carrack is a home for everything thats funky and experimental and unique and underground in Durham, she said. What Durham would be losing (if the Carrack closed) is like an art start-up in a sense.
For site-specific dance artist Alexis Mastromichalis, the Carrack provides a temporary home for diverse work.
We havent had an open space like this, said Mastromichalis, who created installation art and performed an interactive dance at the gallery Wednesday night.
Donated pieces waiting for auction include a graphic design print by FRANCO, a water color by Sarah Goetz and a bridal headband by Katharine Whalen all artists who have benefitted from the artist-focused gallery.
The Carracks commission-free model is risky but also its foundation.
Ritchie was a UNC-Chapel Hill art graduate with dreams of curating when she joined John Wendelbo of the Durham Sculpture Project two years ago to develop a different kind of art project.
Wendelbo said he wanted to shift the collective community conscience of how an art project could be funded and completed.
Ritchie saw a future for the space beyond the sculpture project. The Parrish Street room, she said, was begging to be a gallery.
While Wendelbo sculpts full time, Ritchie juggles jobs as an art teacher, co-gallery coordinator and research assistant. She works at the Carrack for free, but its her passion.
This weeks fundraiser needs to bring in $50,000 to help make the gallery the best it can be. The money would give Ritchie a salary so she could focus on the project full time, as well as pay for an art hanging system, lighting system, artist support budget, competitive rent and signs.
As Ritchie sits in a vintage, flower-print dress at her cluttered desk in the art-filled space, shes proud of how far the Carrack has come and optimistic that the fundraiser will work.
Itll happen, she said.