Wildly popular Bob Ross exhibit has been 'incredible gift' to Penticton's art gallery | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Wildly popular Bob Ross exhibit has been 'incredible gift' to Penticton's art gallery

The astounding success of Penticton Art Gallery's Bob Ross exhibit couldn't have been better timed during a year when COVID-19 decimated the arts and entertainment industry. Here, art gallery curator Paul Crawford stands beside a Bob Ross painting on exhibit at the show, which runs until Sept. 13, 2020.
September 06, 2020 - 7:31 AM

Penticton Art Gallery curator Paul Crawford says the wildly popular Bob Ross exhibit turned out to be one of life’s 'happy little accidents.'

The exhibit is into its final days, with a week and a half left to run. Crawford says it’s been the most successful exhibition ever held at the Penticton Art Gallery, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

“We’ve had shows that generated a similar but shorter spurt over a week, but for a sustained exhibition, this has been an incredible gift to us in this time of madness, COVID-19 and uncertainty,” Crawford says Thursday, Sept. 3.

Bob Ross was an American painter and hosted a public access TV show The Joy of Painting from 1983 to 1994, seen by millions of people across the U.S. and Canada. He died in 1995.

By the time the exhibition finishes on Sept. 13, Crawford estimates more than 50,000 people will have come through the gallery.

“We’ve had roughly 200 people a day come through. It never got below 150 people daily, and that was pretty much maximum capacity for us with COVID-19 social distancing in place,” he says.

The show has made up for all the revenue the gallery lost earlier this year when it had to cancel its major fundraiser for the year, as well as two other exhibitions.

“The revenue from Bob Ross will carry us through this year and put us in a good position for next year, with all the uncertainty yet to come,” he says.

That’s not bad for an industry that’s been devastated by COVID -19 protocols this year.

Even Bob Ross memorabilia has been a big hit.

Crawford says sales of Bob Ross souvenirs have been “even crazier than attendance.”

“We sold more merchandise in 71 days than we normally would sell in two or three years through our gift shop. It’s amazing the number and type of people who have responded to Bob Ross,” Crawford says.

The Life and Arts section of the Globe and Mail recently highlighted the Penticton show. Crawford said it was great to get that publicity.

“It’s nice to know a small gallery, often overlooked by a lot of people, can be recognized nationally,” he says.

Crawford says phone calls continue to come in from across Canada and the western U.S. by people wanting to see the exhibit. He says he feels bad for the Americans who want to see the exhibit but can’t because of the border shutdown.

“This is amazing, what happened with this exhibit this summer, but it would have been really something if we’d had a normal year with international tourists visiting. It boggles my mind to think what we might have had in a normal year,” he says.

The exhibit runs until Sunday, Sept. 13. Crawford says the gallery will open extended hours for the final weekend, and “no one will be left standing in line."

Bob Ross memorabilia has been flying off the art gallery's gift store shelves this summer.
Bob Ross memorabilia has been flying off the art gallery's gift store shelves this summer.

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