Lindsey Andrews has a knack for creating generative spaces.

Take Arcana Durham, the speakeasy-feeling Durham bar with an address off West Main Street and an entrance in the parking lot off Ramseur Street that Andrews has co-owned with Erin Karcher since December 2015: walk in on a given night and you’re likely to encounter a tarot reading and live music alongside a cocktail. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that Andrews’s newest endeavor combines pedagogy with spirits. In late 2019, following the closure of the community arts space The Carrack, she got the idea to open a bar that would host arts programming, with the idea that the bar could give physical space and financial sustenance to the programming. The pandemic hit before the idea could get off the ground, but Andrews went ahead and launched an online version of Night School Bar, a series of evening seminars for adults interested in continuing education outside of the degree model. 

Now, Night School Bar is getting a permanent home with in-person classes in a Five Points District storefront along North Mangum Street. The vision, Andrews says, is for the space to be somewhat “flexible,” with the bar running alongside classes, poetry readings, and other community events. 

“There’s a classroom space in the front,” says Andrews, who has a PhD in English and a certificate in Feminist Studies from Duke University. “There’s a rear entrance as well, and the bar will be in the back half.” 

Since opening, Night School Bar has offered 120 courses and taught more than 1,500 students. The school’s tuition (a pay-what-you-can model) will continue to go toward paying instructors, and Andrews hopes that the bar’s revenue will be enough to sustain itself. 

“It’s a big risk for me personally. I’m taking on a huge investment,” Andrews says. “But I’m really hopeful. I think we have a big community following.” 

Hybrid community spaces have seen a welcome uptick in the Triangle over the past few years: in Raleigh, Redbud Writing Project on North Person Street offers intensive creative writing classes outside of the university model. In Durham, the unassuming Perfect Lovers storefront off North Roxboro serves coffee during the day and hosts a slate of community programs, from art exhibitions and yoga classes to album release parties and readings, throughout the week.  

Andrews agrees that there is a demand for accessible alternate spaces where people can gather and learn together. 

“I think we have a really special pedagogical model,” Andrews says. “We really worked to make sure that we are teaching in a way that is accessible to people who work jobs all day long and maybe don’t have all day to read. It looks different than a regular classroom might because we are usually often full-time working adults.”

Andrews says that she anticipates Night School Bar opening in mid-2023. Meanwhile, several upcoming winter courses—including ones on Moby Dick, queer ecology, and feminist and anti-racist philosophies of love—are still open for enrollment. 

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