Bob Ross exhibit showcases his ‘Joy of Painting’
Ross died in 1995, but reruns of his iconic show continued to be broadcast across the country. The exhibit, in partnership with Bob Ross Inc., will have the power of place.
MUNCIE, Ind. — Over the past year, the historic Lucius L. Ball home at Minnetrista has transformed from two empty rooms into the Bob Ross Experience, reinvigorating the space where the iconic painter once filmed “The Joy of Painting.”
Ross, known for his landscape oil paintings, filmed his show at the house from 1983 to 1988. At the time, the house was owned by WIPB, the local PBS station.
“The Joy of Painting” ran for 11 years, capturing Ross’ quick techniques as he broke down the painting process into simple steps for viewers at home.
Ross died in 1995, but reruns of his iconic show continued to be broadcast across the country. Minnetrista’s exhibit, in partnership with Bob Ross Inc., will have the power of place.
“I think for the staff, knowing the history of the home, even beyond Bob Ross, something feels complete about having something in here like this,” said Katy Maggart, communications manager at Minnetrista. “Taking this home, that’s a historic Ball family home, and giving it new life feels good.”
Upon walking into the house, guests can read about Ross’ connection to Minnetrista and see one of his original paintings. The exhibit has six Ross paintings in total, and is only one of two museums to hold the painter’s work, the other being the Smithsonian.
“The paintings will rotate in and out throughout the year,” Maggart said. “So, hopefully, every time you come, there’s something new to look at. That was the intention.”
In one room, guests can see and stand where Ross filmed “The Joy of Painting” in a recreated studio setting. Minnetrista worked with Jim Needham, the general manager of WIPB at the time of the show, to revive the space.
From the outdated carpet to the original studio cameras, the room was reconstructed to how it looked in the 1980s. Guests can see, and sometimes touch, Ross’ easel, paints and brushes. There are other small items, including Ross’ afro pick, on bookshelves throughout the space.
“We wanted people to be able to come in and experience Bob in a real tangible way,” Maggart said. “We wanted this to be something people could come in and touch, explore and experience.”
The other room on the ground floor is set up like like a living room in the ’80s, complete with a CR2 television. The intention of the room is to recreate how people originally experienced Ross.
Along the back bookshelf are other artifacts of the time, like VHS tapes of “The Goonies” and “The Princess Bride.” There’s also a collection of Ross items, like a Chia Pet and bobble head of the painter, to show what an icon he was and remains.
“This is kind of a nod to the fact that people loved to invite Bob in,” Maggart said. “Of course, it’s kind of a nod to all of the fun stuff that’s come since. He became such an icon.”
The back hallway also features paintings done by Certified Ross Instructors (CRIs), who learn to paint like Ross and then instruct classes themselves. The four paintings are of the different seasons, and in Minnetrista’s way of inviting the painters in, they have the opportunity to add their own tree to the canvas.
Currently, the upstairs section of the building is under construction, and will eventually house a gallery and studio space. When open in 2021, Bob Ross painting classes will take place in the space.
Maggart said many have asked why Minnetrista is “doing Bob.” For the center, it’s the power of place. Ross almost exclusively filmed “The Joy of Painting” at the Lucius L. Ball home.
“That’s why it’s not a traveling exhibit,” Maggart said. “It can’t be, because it’s based on this space right here.”
Eventually it will be open to the general public, but for now the new exhibit will be open to ticket holders only, Maggart said. Tickets will be timed, partly due to COVID-19, and only 15 guests will be allowed in at a time.
Like Minnetrista’s other exhibits, the Bob Ross Experience will be open Wednesday through Sunday at various times. A temporary 10-month “Bob at Home” exhibit, opened on Oct. 31, in the Oakhurst Experience home, that will feature more than 30 Bob Ross paintings. Due to COVID-19, masks are required at Minnetrista.
The grand opening of the exhibit on Oct. 31 was expected to bring in hundreds, with workshops, behind-the-camera talks with people close to Ross and a Bob Ross costume parade and contest.
“A lot of people come in, and this is where Bob stood and everyone has a variety of reactions to that; some people cry and some people are cool,” Maggart said.
While Minnetrista tries to stay local in the work it does, Ross’ exhibit has received national and global attention, which is new territory for the center.
With Ross generally being a private and humble person, Maggart said the recognition perhaps would have been a little over-the-top for him. Nonetheless, she thinks he would be proud of the space.
“We would say Bob would love this. And that’s why we’ve worked so closely with these partners and these people who knew Bob when he was living,” Maggart said. “We wanted this to honor Bob. We don’t want this to commercialize Bob or to take him and make him something he wasn’t.”
Going forward from opening day, Maggart said she hopes the exhibit will continue to bring people in from all over the country.
“Our hope is to bring people to East Central Indiana, to Muncie, to our community and share with them what we have, which is Bob and other cool things,” Maggart said. “We want this to be a really great thing, for not just Minnetrista, but our community as a whole and our region as a whole.”
Tickets for the Bob Ross Experience are $15 for adults and $12 and will grant access to all of Minnetrista’s spaces. The exhibit is free to members, but they still have to get a timed ticket. Tickets can be purchased at minnetrista.net/bobrossexperience.