This Arts Advocacy Day, the stakes are much higher. As we work to make the case for the arts, we wonder, is our data keeping pace? We’re using love (or breakup) letters as a creative and fun design research method to get powerful insight into the perceptions of our stakeholders. We invite you to join us in this discovery.
Laura Ritchie is Co-founder of The Carrack, a zero-commission gallery and performance venue in Durham, North Carolina. The Carrack provides professional space at no cost to artists and fosters connections between artists and audiences through interdisciplinary programming. Laura reached out to stakeholders in The Carrack community asking for letters of love. Here are the marvelous results.
A patron, artist, writer and poet shares:
Dear Carrack Gallery,
I’d like to thank you not so much for what you are, but for how you have transformed the imagination of the community I live in.
First, however, an appreciation for what you are—a no-commission gallery with an unceasing schedule of two-week shows; a no-fee performance space; a hybrid, unpretentious art platform that can be a community gallery showing first-time artists one week and one of the more significant contemporary art galleries in the Southeast showing mid-career artists the next.
But the thing I love most about you is that you seem not to know what risk is. Galleries just don’t dare to run themselves under your rules—rolling shows so quickly, giving away your space for nothing, turning the space over to the artists for the duration of their show, coaching and supporting people who’ve never shown work or curated exhibitions through the whole process with patience and professionalism. Describe the Carrack to anyone and they will likely snort and call it unsustainable and ridiculous. But it’s proven sustainable, and it’s grown and changed and thrived.
Because of its gradual, persistent growth, the Carrack has given people here a new way to think about getting something off the ground. Its free- and open-access model is a reality not just within its four walls, but in the minds of all creative people here. When you talk with other artists or performers or organizers, they say things like “We should do something like a Carrack model.” People are regularly starting small, agile, open-model organizations to address community needs and enable creative work to happen.
Thanks so much for being that positive agitator, and for lighting the visions of so many creative people here.
An artist and supporter writes:
I was just going through some notebooks of mine when a reminder of our first “date” fell into my lap. It was the postcard from my solo exhibit, “Spectives”, at The Carrack back in 2012. It was magical. I remember feeling fully embraced and unconditionally accepted for what I brought to the gallery. I remember your generosity of spirit in giving me full access to the space to curate as I saw fit and your ongoing offers of help where I needed it. I still feel the warmth of your friends and mine who came together at the opening reception and the artist’s talk. You helped expand my connection to the larger arts community. All of this without asking anything in return. It was the beginning of a long and deep connection to you and community that thrives even today.
I know our relationship didn’t actually begin with Spectives. It started before that as soon as I discovered this quirky space on Parrish Street led by these two dreamers, John and Laura. They were talking about this zero commission gallery for artists that would give them free reign to present their work in a space over which the artists would have total control for the duration of their exhibits. I was skeptical (especially about the zero commission thing) but already in love with the idea. Since then I have been a part of every community show, every open call, every fundraiser, and even a couple of other events that I organized. It has been a wonderful love affair that I see going on far into the future.
Thank you for just being what you are. I am still feeling the same glow I felt on our first “date.” Thought you would like to know.
I love <3 the Carrack, because it puts community first.
I love <3 the Carrack because it empowers artists to do whatever they want to with the space, including posting up a politically charged performance piece in the bathroom.
Because the Carrack knows it’s important to be heard, to listen, to provide space for all voices to say what they need to say.
I love <3 that the Carrack is a zero 0% commission art-space. I love <3 that the art-loving community of Durham + the Triangle see how awesome the Carrack’s mission is, so they keep the doors open by volunteering time, money, heart, hugs…whatever they can…to reflect back the <3 love & heart that the Carrack provides us all.
Thanks for all the fun times!