In 2011, Durham artist Jim Lee heard about a new Durham art gallery being founded and its mission of offering artists exhibit space at no charge and taking no commission from sales.
“I had serious questions about this and told John Wendelbo and Laura Ritchie, the founders of The Carrack Modern Art gallery, that I thought it was important that artists had to have some skin in the game because this space needed to survive,” Lee said. “I lost that argument.”
The Carrack has survived financially through donations and a yearly fundraising event despite Lee’s reservations, and as he suspected, has made a mark on the Triangle art scene.
“I think that we have succeeded in building an empowered community through art,” Ritchie said. “Everyone who participates is encouraged to take full ownership of their two-week exhibit and really build something for themselves. We work hard to specifically support emerging artists who have amazing ideas but haven’t been seen or are established and need a place to take a risk.”
The Carrack also tries to create different opportunities for a broader range of Triangle artists.
“We are trying to be this big kind of hub, springboard, or incubator, if you will, for artists and artistic ideas that cross the lines of age, race, class, gender, and artistic expression,” Ritchie said. The Carrack is also host to theater, poetry, music, and dance groups.
Since The Carrack opened, Durham’s art scene has really grown. “But there is still nothing like The Carrack anywhere,” Lee said. “There is a huge diversity too in who attends events there.”
The past four annual fundraisers have been held in The Carrack’s space at 111 W. Parrish St., but Ritchie believed The Carrack should go beyond its walls for this year’s event.
She invited past Carrack exhibitor Kerry Crocker to make it happen. Crocker, who loves Halloween and is an excellent party thrower, has created a night to remember. The Muse Masquerade will take place from8 p.m. to midnight Friday, Oct. 23, at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham (thecarrack.org/muse/). The hotel has donated the space.
“We wanted to involve people in the Carrack family – people who have benefitted from being in The Carrack who would interact with guests somehow to make it a very experiential and immersive thing,” Crocker said.
The line-up includes New York City drag artist Shasta Kola, local bands Beauty World, The Boulevard Ensemble, Gmish Klezmer Band, and Shirlette Ammons, aerialists from Raleigh’s Cirque de Vol Studios, Poetry Fox creating spontaneous custom poems on a vintage typewriter, thefacesblur who will create visuals that will be projected on a giant screen, Madame Flora and Slow Holler artists, tarot readers, and Tony Waldron, who will draw on photographs he takes of guests and give them away.
Crocker has also designed a scavenger hunt in which attendees will interact with the entertainers to get clues. Costumes are optional, but Crocker hopes that attendees will wear a mask.
As with every past fundraiser, the aim is to raise enough to cover a year’s rent, but this year, Ritchie hopes to raise a little more to pay a part-time staff person. The goal is $30,000. When setting the ticket price, someone suggested a “choose your own price” model.
“Most of our jaws dropped,” Crocker said. Then this model was adopted.
“We wanted all Triangle residents to have equal access,” Crocker said. “It is really the Carrack’s philosophy for everyone to have the opportunity to be represented.”
The suggested ticket price is $85 but all offers, for more or less, will be accepted if a ticket is purchased prior to the event. At the door, tickets will be available at a fixed price determined by remaining fundraising needs.
Jim Lee’s show, “The Scanners,” with artists Leah Sobsey, Tama Hochbaum, and John Gallagher is at The Carrack through Oct. 24 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, as part of Third Friday Durham. These four photographers sometimes use a scanner as their primary capture device.
“I wanted to have a show that only featured works made with a scanner to try and give people a sense of how much it truly belongs in the photographic world,” Lee said. “The works that are made with a scanner are like long exposure photographs but have certain light and optical characteristics that make the images unique.”
A gallery talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. The show is presented in conjunction with Click! Triangle Photography Festival.
Lee will also be among the masked at The Muse Masquerade.
“Since The Carrack opened, I have tried to participate in it at every level. I am on the advisory board and participate in every public show that they have and every fundraiser,” Lee said. “I have also become a sustainer. I don’t walk past that plastic donation box at The Carrack without dropping something in to show appreciation for what The Carrack is.”