Minnetrista Blogs

Experiencing Bob Ross at Minnetrista

“Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.” – Bob Ross

In 1983 a Datsun camper drove into Muncie, IN, carrying a little-known art instructor named Bob Ross. Although the vehicle had seen better days and the wheels had some rust, the truck itself was filled with paints, canvases, and easels ready to unlock the creativity and dreams of those lucky enough to join Bob in one of his painting classes. Hoping to drum up interest in their upcoming workshop at the county fairgrounds, Bob and his business partner Annette ran two advertising spots on Muncie’s local public broadcasting station – WIPB. As it turned out the investment was well worth the return, and the duo had to rework their upcoming workshop schedule to accommodate the large volume of people who signed up.

Bob Ross enjoying a slice of pizza and a break from painting.
Minnetrista Heritage Collection

In no time at all Bob and Annette made their way the short distance to WIPB; then located along Minnetrista Boulevard in the former homes of Lucius L. Ball and Mary Lincoln. Sitting across from Jim Needham, WIPB’s general manager, they asked, “What is so special about this station?” The answer was a simple one – community and hard work. Having oversubscribed his workshop with the help of WIPB, Bob made a proposal. He had recently filmed a thirteen episode painting show at a PBS station in Virginia. How would WIPB feel about continuing the project?  Based on the warm welcome Muncie had already given him, Bob believed that the community would be the perfect home for his television series.

Former home of Lucius L. Ball during its years as the studio and offices of WIPB Television.
Minnetrista Heritage Collection

After working out the details, it was settled – WIPB would produce what became known as “The Joy of Painting.”  Over the next several years the series was filmed in the former living room of the Lucius L. Ball home, and Bob and the show’s crew became like family. They played jokes on each other, swapped stories, and kept up with each other’s life events. With Bob coming into town three times a year to film episodes, the community not only felt like a home for “The Joy of Painting,” but a home for Bob as well.

Bob Ross with television staff at the WIPB studio at Ball State University.
Minnetrista Heritage Collection

After WIPB moved to a new studio on Ball State University’s campus in 1988, the show moved with the station. Even with the much needed upgrades in space and technology, Bob had a soft spot for the homey feeling of the Lucius L. Ball house. In total, 390 episodes of “The Joy of Painting” were filmed in Muncie before the show’s end in 1994. Three years earlier, with the input of Bob himself, Minnetrista became the first museum in the nation to exhibit Bob’s work and also the first museum to add examples of the television artist’s work to their permanent collection.

“Mountain Parade.” Oil on Canvas by Bob Ross.
Minnetrista Heritage Collection

Although Bob Ross last visited Muncie in 1994 (the year before Bob’s passing), his message of empowerment still lives on in the community. From the set of his show he calls on each of us to rethink our abilities, our mistakes, and ourselves. Looking to amplify that very message, Minnetrista is partnering with Bob Ross, Inc., to bring Bob home to Muncie once again. Next year the Bob Ross Experience will open on our campus in the Lucius L. Ball house where WIPB filmed “The Joy of Painting.” Work on the experience is well underway, and over the next sixteen months the heavy lifting of creating and funding a home for Bob and story of “The Joy of Painting” will continue. When completed, visitors will be able to stand in the former studio where Bob filmed his iconic television show and even try their own hand at painting in the house where Bob did. Keep your eyes and ears open for updates on the project. We are excited to share this story with the community, and as Bob once said, “…when you share it with other people. I really believe that’s the true joy.”