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Adult virtual learning platform opens physical location, bar in Durham

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People gather at the Night School Bar in Durham, N.C. on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2023. The Night School Bar provides evening classes in the arts and humanities taught by professionals.

On Thursday, Lindsey Andrews and her team opened a physical Durham location of Night School Bar, a bar that also offers pay-what-you-can courses in the arts and humanities.

Andrews started Night School Bar in 2020 as a virtual program for adults. Night School Bar offers courses that relate to current subjects and provides the tools for students to analyze and understand their own experiences, according to its website.

Now, adults of all ages have the opportunity to connect with others in a physical, social and academic atmosphere.

The new location has an open layout with two designated spaces. The first is a classroom area, and large sliding doors connect it to the bar, which is the second space.

'I'm really excited about getting to breathe into the energy of a classroom or the energy of a space where people can feel the contagion of excitement for ideas,” Nicole Berland, an instructor at the Night School Bar, said.

The bar has offered dozens of courses that explore unique and specific topics, such as queer ecology, speculative fiction and anti-capitalism.

Phillip Stillman, another instructor, said the mission of the bar is to make graduate-level education readily accessible for everyone, including people who don’t have financial or cultural privilege.

Stillman, a psychotherapist, teaches courses on topics including  ecology, literature and queer theory.

“I draw on all these different aspects of my education to teach courses on queer theory and [transgender] studies, and then also I teach courses on radical ecology,” they said.

Berland, who is an assistant teaching professor at UNC, said she finds freedom in her Night School Bar classes because they are all learning together.

The opening of the brick-and-mortar site will provide space for creativity, new community and friendship to spring up, she said.

“I think this is going to provide an accessible space for people to learn about topics, to come with their curiosity to learn about things that they want to know about and that they don't really have a way into learning about, so this will provide it,” Andrews said.

A large aspect of opening the physical location was engagement with additional art and programming.

“Part of the goal is to be able to have social, meaningful interactions in person that can feel really collective and creative,” Andrews said.

As part of the early stages of opening, the Night School Bar hosted an intimate performance and discussion by local artists Chessa Rich and Skylar Gudasz on Oct. 8.

Rich, an indie rock musician, has taken courses with the Night School Bar and said it was a "no-brainer" to play in a space with a high concentration of creative people.

“In a place like Durham that has such a concentration of creative people — musicians, artists, scholars — it's kind of a crucial part of connecting those people, not even just artists and creatives, but people that are interested in building a different kind of functional world,” Rich said. 

She said it's important to have a space for eliminating barriers and accessing communities where other types of thinking are encouraged.

The physical location is open to any adult interested in focusing on niche but important topics, regardless of prior learning or interests.

Jasmina Nogo, a student at the Night School Bar, has a journalism degree from UNC and, after spending some time in law work, went to N.C. State University for a master of fine arts in creative writing.

After feeling stifled and suffering from a lack of inspiration and productivity during the pandemic, she began taking writing courses at the Night School Bar, which adjusted the trajectory of her passions, she said.

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“It changed my life in the sense that I quit my job because this is what I was hungry for,” Nogo said.

She said she has found that the content of her courses motivate enriching learning with continued exploration and personal advancements.

With a physical space, the Night School Bar community will continue to grow, and conversations and impactful learning will be continuous, Nogo said.

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com