The Muse Masquerade might be the coolest, craziest Halloween event in Durham — and the whole point is to support The Carrack, a Durham art space founded in 2011. Event organizer Kerry Crocker calls the masquerade “a grown-up, sexy kind of party” that’s all about cutting loose.

[Related: Social media from last year’s Muse Masquerade]

On Friday, Oct. 27, twirling aerialists, indie-jazz musicians, tarot card readers and more will converge on 21c Hotel in Durham to entertain mask-wearing guests into the wee hours of the night.

“You could stand in a corner, and five minutes later somebody could stand exactly where you were before, and they’ll have a different experience,” said Laura Ritchie, The Carrack’s director. “[The acts are] constantly changing around you no matter where you are.

She’s planning for 500 guests. People have already snapped up over 350 of the $65 tickets to support The Carrack, which rotates exhibitions every two weeks and hosts dance, theatre, poetry and film events.

“Everyone uses our space for free and keeps 100 percent of what they make in sales,” Ritchie said. “We’re all about fostering community connection and growth by lifting up the voices of local artists.”

The annual fundraiser is especially important to The Carrack because artists use the space for free. The art space relies on a network of volunteers, not staff, and donations to keep it running.

If you need to know anything before stepping foot in this immersive experience, which spreads across three stories of 21c, it’s that for the first time the Muse Masquerade will have a featured event. Award-winning Triangle-based band Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands will perform — with a twist.

“Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands do this mystical, ethereal music that is a bit old-timey [and] vaudevillian,” Crocker said. “They’re going to be playing a live score to the classic film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”
The band will play in 21c’s ballroom in front of a giant projection of the 1920 silent horror film about a murderous hypnotist.

[Related: ArtsNow red carpet photos from last year’s Muse Masquerade]

Other performers include aerialists from Addled Muse Fire Theater (they’ll be doing tricks without flame-breathing, though — no fire in the hotel!), electronic house music from Durham DJs The Floor #afterhours plus Penelope’s Room. It’s a woven, walkable structure created for 21c by artist Elizabeth Chabot that will debut at the masquerade.

And don’t forget about the costume contest! Ritchie and Crocker switch up how it works every year. This year, a panel of fashion-forward jurors will choose winners in the categories of best mask, best costume and best group costume.

“You’ll be able to win a ticket to next year’s Muse Masquerade,” Crocker said. “We really want people to dress to impress the jurors who will be scoping them out and taking their pictures!”

The Carrack’s annual fundraiser used to be a black tie art auction, but after Crocker took over planning in 2015 and transformed it into a free-spirited Halloween bonanza, it really took off.CThe goal is to raise $30,000, half of the space’s operating budget, through the masquerade.

“A sellout event will get us pretty close to our goal,” Ritchie added. “We are still trying to find corporate sponsors and we are also hoping that people who are able to give more than the ticket fee will donate… We always generate income, but it’s never quite as much as we need it to be.”

To learn more or purchase tickets, visit thecarrack.org/exhibits-events/muse/.

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