In 2006, journalist Tom Brokaw told the graduating Stanford class it’s easy to make a buck, but it’s a lot harder to make a difference.
UNC alumna Laura Ritchie knew that to be true, but decided to take on the challenge in 2011 when she co-founded the Carrack Modern Art, an art space in Durham run by the community for the community.
Now, the free space that runs solely on volunteer help and community donations is celebrating its third year anniversary in a way that is true to the space: with an open-call community art show, guest curated by long-time volunteer Kate Swearingen.
“I think these community shows are really special because anyone can submit,” Swearingen said. “They’re really exciting and I don’t know that there are too many spaces, probably in the whole country, where they invite professional and nonprofessional to show in the same setting.”
While the Carrack does focus on local artists, both professional and nonprofessional, the majority of the shows are two-week solo exhibitions, making the four community shows a year certainly a treat.
“It creates an opportunity for a very broad audience to interact with a very broad collection of artwork and it seemed like a perfect way to connect with our audience as a big thank you,” said Ritchie about the anniversary show.
However, some may argue the appreciation goes both ways. While it’s vital for the Carrack to show its gratefulness for community support, the relationship between the art space and the community is symbiotic.
“The inspiration (for the Carrack) was really about a need that we recognized back in 2011 for an alternative art space, one that would really meet the needs of the artists first and also serve a specific community of downtown Durham,” said Ritchie, who created the Carrack with John Wendelbo, using the Durham Sculpture Project as a jumping-off point.
“We wanted to create a space that allowed artists to be in control of all creative choices, we wanted to ask the community to support the space like that ... we really wanted to give artists the opportunity to display their work all at once — so one artist having one solo show in one space at one time — so that people could see a full vision of the artist in one space.”
Over the course of three years, that vision has certainly been met as popularity for the space has grown with its supporters — during the past two years, over 200 applications have been submitted for 24 exhibition spots.
Raleigh artist Saba Barnard was one of the chosen artists, showing her work in solo shows in March 2012 and again in January. As a fan, an artist and a donor, she cited the Carrack as an important place, especially for emerging artists.
“I showed there and it was one of my first big shows ever, and I think even for me, personally, the Carrack has been really integral,” Barnard said. “When I first met with Laura, I remember I was just so new to the art scene and to showing my work and kind of through the Carrack, doing that, it’s really helped me navigate the art world.”
Three years ago, Ritchie put her trust in the community, and now she wants to express how grateful she is for their trust in her.
“It’s just been a great ride and I’m just so excited to be where the organization is going to go in the future,” she said. “There’s just so many possibilities within the space and the more people who participate, the richer it becomes.”
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