By Meg Fair
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
Spirit Lodge has become a hub for music and culture in the Lawrenceville neighborhood, helping to grow creative scenes and communities. In the coming years, even more things will be growing at Spirit — in this case, literal plants.
Kelsey Sheridan is the project manager for the Rooftop Garden Project at Spirit, an ambitious project that seeks to utilize Spirit’s roof as a solar energy source, bee apiary, rooftop garden and educational event space. The venue’s gardener Josh Barnes already grows fresh produce in the city-owned lot next to Spirit, but Spirit takes that gardening effort event further and provide an educational space to engage with urban gardeners and local farms.
“A thriving local community goes hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability, and it’s something that is really important to our staff and customers here at Spirit. As a venue that hosts a myriad of events and shows each week, we use a lot of energy. But, we also have a unique opportunity to make an impact on our eco-footprint,” says Sheridan.
With help from Rebecca Bykowski of Sustainable Pittsburgh, the venue has switched over to 99% LED lighting, including stage lights. The food waste is composted each week by Zero Waste Wrangler, and all the cups, straws, flatware, napkins and disposable plates at Spirit are biodegradable.
“Anyone who comes to see their favorite band, dance night, happy hour, wedding reception, or just have dinner & drinks with their friends on a Tuesday, supports this sustainability,” says Sheridan.
When the project is complete, the roof will hold 1,000 square feet of garden beds, 2,000 square feet of solar panels and event space with room for 50 people that will host educational events as well.
This past spring the 5,000 square foot flat roof of Spirit was re-insulated to dampen noise and provide the foundation to build on, but the rest of the project is still in its fundraising and planning stages. As part of its fundraising effort, the venue is hosting a Rooftop Garden Benefit Dinner on November 21 that will serve as a “Friendsgiving” inside of the iconic Ian Brill ‘Vault’ installation in Spirit Hall.
“We knew that we wanted to hold an annual semi-fancy but fully-weird dinner party to raise money for the Rooftop Garden Project, and Ian’s Vault just made sense,” says Tom Barr, one of Spirit’s crew of owners. “You could eat a bowl of corn flakes by yourself in the Vault and be entertained while Ian is performing it… Add actual chefs, talented musicians, and friends… And you’ve got one hell of a Friendsgiving.”
The event will feature performances by Jon David Russell, Pissy Mattress (as Dawn Tawnya), Alex Korshin and jb.arnes, and will be hosted by Spirit partner Alex Korshin, who will be singing some songs around the piano.
The performances will happen inside of Brill’s active Vault alongside a four-course meal created by Piebird, Sugar Spell Scoops and Kendyl Ryan and Dan Rodriguez of Duncan Street, as well as Dave Rath and John Thomas of Spirit, who will be creating dishes with produce from Pittsburgh’s Tiny Seed Farms. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options are available, with pairings curated and created by the Allegheny Wine Mixer, Spring Hill Brewing and Nicole Battle of Angel’s Envy, an original bartender at Spirit.
With friends making food and drinks and performing music inside, Spirit’s Friendsgiving fundraiser is indicative of the teamwork and collaboration that Spirit strives for.
“A vital element of a large project like this is that it’s truly a collaborative effort,” says Sheridan.
“We intend to keep working with and finding ways Spirit as a venue can support the amazing community gardens we met through this process!”
Rooftop Garden Project Friendsgiving Benefit Dinner. 7 p.m. Thursday, November 21. Spirit Hall, 242 51st St. $85. tinyurl.com/rooftopgardenproject