All-Star team showcases North Carolina arts in ‘MUSE: The Arts Show’

Jim McDowell's segment on "MUSE" will air Oct. 17. // Photo courtesy Dan Powers.

If you like dance, photography, visual art or even puppetry, there’s a new show on UNC-TV for you. “MUSE: The Arts Show” debuted on the North Carolina Channel on Oct. 3, and each 30-minute episode features a segment on at least one artist in North Carolina.

It’s hosted by Laura Ritchie, who’s been involved in the North Carolina arts scene for years and is director of downtown Durham art space The Carrack. On Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on UNC-TV, she’ll bring audiences stories about everything from master puppeteer Hobey Ford on the western side of the state to North Carolina State University’s rising rappers in Raleigh.

Laura Ritchie hosts “MUSE.” // Photo courtesy of Katie Frohbose.

Co-producer Katy Loebrich has already worked on several segments for the show and enjoys getting to see another side of the performers and artists.

“It’s easy for us to watch someone on TV and think they’re a big star,” she said. “Once you walk up to them and have a conversation at their level, you realize they’re just another person and get to know them.”

One of her favorite moments from working on the show so far has been chatting about the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” with classical pianist Lara Downes, and Rhiannon Giddens — formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops —  for a segment focusing on Downes.

Loebrich described the 26-episode series, which is scheduled to run through the spring of 2018, as an “arts magazine program.” There will be plenty of encore broadcasts on UNC-TV as well as on the North Carolina Channel, where you can catch “MUSE” at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.

“MUSE” isn’t just about North Carolina, though. Each week, viewers will learn about artists from the other states whose public media stations are collaborating on the show — and that means people in states like New York and Maryland will be learning about North Carolina’s vibrant arts community.

“It does give us the opportunity to showcase North Carolina to the greater world at large,” Loebrich said. “We haven’t had a show like this.”

It doesn’t hurt that “MUSE” has an all-star team behind it, either. Loebrich is known for her work on “North Carolina Bookwatch” and “North Carolina Now” (her work on that show earned her a regional Emmy nomination in 2012). Co-producer Morgan Potts has also gotten regional Emmy attention — he won two in 2015 for his work on UNC-TV’s “Our State.”

The next North Carolina artist segment of “MUSE,” premiering on the North Carolina Channel on Oct. 17, will bring viewers to viewers to Black Mountain, a small town just east of Asheville, to meet potter Jim McDowell. He’s makes face jugs, an art form rooted in African-American slave history. Slaves in many places weren’t allowed to have gravestones, leading to the creative solution of face jugs.

Upcoming episodes will feature Dwane Powell, known for his political cartoons The News & Observer, the American Dance Festival’s 40th anniversary and photographer Watson Brown, whose ability to capture images of rural North Carolina has garnered praise.

“It’s been a long time in coming — we’ve known that the arts in North Carolina are rich and vibrant and definitely need be profiled,” Loebrich said. “We’re excited to be able to do that and bring the depth that PBS allows us to.”

Watch ‘MUSE: The Arts Show’

Watch Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on the North Carolina Channel and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on UNC-TV.

A different ‘muse’ happens Oct. 27

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