SpiritStore Art Café
In 2009 the SpiritStore occupied the Sarsfield Bar, Limerick city, Ireland.
Over the course of several months, this infamous Georgian Bar was reopened and reimagined as the SpiritStore Art Café. The doors of this bar had been closed to the public for over five years; however it held great, almost mythical status in the collective imagination of Limerick citizens. This was largely due to the reputation of the final owner and proprietor of the bar, Sean Hickey who made it extremely difficult to get served there if you weren't one of his regulars. Sean Hickey's stance was admired, being served in the public house became something of a sport, with people retelling stories of their failed and successful attempts to order a drink from this renowned custodian of the house. With the passing of Mr Hickey, the bar closed its doors and was later bought by a local butcher whose family had owned a business in close proximity to the public house for generations. The new owner Mr Glynn became a sponsor and an advocate for this project.
The building that housed the Sarsfield Bar was the first building in a grid system of Georgian buildings in Limerick city, it was built to be the Lord Majors residency. Although protected, in 2007 it was destined to be the corner building around which a large new shopping mall was to be developed. This did not happen due to Ireland's economic crash and the empty Georgian building remained unoccupied until SpiritStore opened its doors to the public.
The SpiritStore Art Café, became a site for a host of collaborators to image an alternative to the status quo during the Irish economic crash. Creatives and citizens came together to negotiate, occupy and community manage the empty public house as a city centre social space
SpiritStore initiated collective actions, imagining, organising, and materialising potential new forms of inhabiting the building and inhabiting the city. The Art Cafe opened seven days a week, serving free tea and coffee with a daily programme of workshops, readings, performances, exhibitions, screenings, talks and installations.
The project provided structures to catalyse social exchange crossing public, professional and social spheres. SpiritStore's preservation and attitude to the heritage of the space, as well as a local desire to pass over the threshold of The Sarsfield Bar, created a broader Limerick public engagement with the project. As a social space the Art Cafe provided an alternative space for audience interaction and we used an inclusive and open-access curatorial framework to programme activities.
The open-access curatorial framework combined a curated programme of activities alongside citizen organised events. We invited any Limerick citizen to host a meeting, event, talk, performance etc. The programme was chalked-in on an in-house blackboard, citizens could walk in and book a spot, or email a request in advance which was always accommodated. The programme included performances, public talks and meetings on subjects as diverse as Mathematics, Museology, Architecture, Graffiti, Perceptual Psychology, Archaeology, Poetry, Music Composition, New Music, Active Social Spaces, Slack Spaces, Skateboarding, Literature, Artists Collectives, Interaction Design, Choreography, Film Discourse, Script Writing, Games Design, Visual Art, Astronomy, History, Cinema and more.
The SpiritStore Art Cafe, a site of ruptured progress, provided a location for audience interaction, for public gathering and autonomous, self-determined and critical engagement with the city.