Bob Ross exhibit visits Alaska for first time

From left, Eva LoForte and Torie Baker enjoy an exhibit of artwork inspired by the work of Bob Ross. (Nov. 17, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Art instructor Bob Ross was known as much for his gently optimistic attitude as for the cheerful woodland landscapes he painted. As the host of PBS’s “The Joy of Painting,” Ross taught viewers how to create rustic forest and log-cabin scenes inspired by Ross’s years at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.

Now, for the first time, a traveling exhibit of Bob Ross-inspired quilt artwork is visiting Alaska. The exhibit will be on display at Cordova Historical Museum until Nov. 28, following two days of closure for Thanksgiving. The exhibit combines a collection of quilts by Bob Ross aficionados from around the world with landscape paintings by local artists.

Ross’s simple optimism offers an antidote to the bleak mood that has prevailed throughout the year, organizers said.

“Bob Ross is enjoying a renaissance right now,” said Paula Payne, president of Cordova Arts and Pageants. “He’s coming back into fashion, I think because his message is so upbeat and positive and inspiring … It’s the perfect exhibit to have during COVID.”

Detail from “101 Happy Little Accidents, Give or Take a Few Hundred” by Chris Willis. (Nov. 17, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The exhibit also features a wig imitating Ross’s distinctive perm, and “Bob Ross remixed,” a video produced by PBS that sets Ross’s painting tips and observations about life to music.

The museum will hold a drawing Tuesday, Nov. 24 for an assortment of merchandise, including a Bob Ross chia pet. The museum’s gift store is also offering items including socks displaying Ross’s grinning face. Copper River Canvas hosted a “Create a ‘happy little’ Bob Ross painting” night at the museum Nov. 14.

“It’s such a feel-good show,” Payne said. “It’s the perfect message for this time.”