Durham Independent Dance Artists shows usually take place in nightclubs, art galleries, warehouses—anywhere but theaters. Ginger Wagg and Wild Actions' AndAlwaysWhy is no exception. Its premiere this week will also cut the ribbon on the Torus Building, a new space at 947 East Main Street. But already, Wagg is transforming the blank slate.
At a recent preview, two performers scribbled furiously on a paper curtain. It bisected a long, narrow room with planked floors, like the deck of a ship; a high ceiling in the style of pressed tin; and traces of exposed brick that whisper of a layered history. Its likeness to another Durham gallery is striking, as if the Carrack Modern Art had been scooped out of its Parrish Street loft and poured into a street-level storefront.
On one side of the curtain, a front door gestures downtown by way of Main. On the other, a rear door points down a flight of new wooden steps, through the courtyard of SPECTRE Arts and toward Golden Belt. This is significant. The room is a more than symbolic bridge between those poles, and Wagg's temporary transformation of it foreshadows a lasting one.
As of July 1, this tall, natural-light-filled gallery will be the new home of the Carrack, which is leaving its niche above Loaf bakery to ensconce itself within the artist colony growing in the Torus Building, the multi-studio facility Alicia Lange recently opened. Lange also owns SPECTRE Arts, a gallery that has worked alongside the Carrack to vitalize and diversify the Durham art scene.
Rising rents and endless construction in the heart of downtown certainly played a major role in the decision by Carrack director Laura Ritchie to leave the roughshod loft where she grew her gallery into a local landmark. A snap reaction about big money pushing little art to the fringes is natural, and it's partly correct. But the upshot is more complex and less gloomy than that.
"This is not a story of how gentrification is destroying the Durham art scene," Ritchie says. "It's an exciting story of how we've outgrown where we started."
Indeed, this a story about some of the most influential people in the art scene harnessing pressure to run away from something into momentum to run toward something better: a broader, more collaborative community in a more expansive space.
In moving, the Carrack will consolidate ties with Lange and with Golden Belt in an effort to bolster the district as an arts community. In the process, it stands to dramatically shift the center of gravity in Durham's artistic social life—and maybe even change the way you think about downtown.