The Evening Muse has been a cornerstone of NoDa’s art and entertainment for 20 years, and will finally reopen in May for intimate performances by national and regional singer-songwriters and bands.
April 6 marks the 20th anniversary of Joe Kuhlmann and Lea Pritchard opening The Evening Muse in 2001. Joe has continued to run the beloved music venue through much of NoDa’s formative years.
“In 2001, NoDa was the wild west in Charlotte,” Joe recalls. “The district was left unto its own devices, and a week could go by without seeing a cop car drive through.”
In 2000, Joe and Lea met up for their first date on the corner of 36th and Davidson, at what was then called Living Arts coffee shop. One of the properties that was saved from collapse by NoDa pioneers Ruth and Paul Sires, the historic building’s corner was destroyed more than once by tractor trailer trucks running into it. Sires recalls paying $12,000 for the abandoned building, and selling the corner back to the city for $8,000 to improve the sidewalk and create the now-familiar 45-degree corner entrance. Joe and Lea took over the lease in 2001, renamed it the Evening Muse, and joined the Neighborhood Theatre, Fat City, and Studio 23 in hosting live music in NoDa.
Despite crashed trucks, the Evening Muse has always been a safe space for musicians and guests. Where many music venues can feel impersonal, the Evening Muse has made the historic mill office into a community living room with live music. For over a decade, the Muse hosted the NoDa Neighborhood Association meetings, and the community poured in to watch our neighborhood change. At the end of the night we would clean up our chairs, and the touring band would set up for sound check.
“I didn’t realize how much I had taken for granted,” Joe said when asked about his year off. “I think we all realized how much as humans we need each other. People are wanting to be amongst others and to start a healing process…to know the power of music and community.”