Rooster and I made a trip to Muncie, Indiana, to visit a place called Minnetrista. We knew little about the venue, but we discovered amazing surprises there. #Muncie #Indiana #White River Greenway #Ball family
Minnetrista is a culture center, museum, and gathering place located at 1200 N. Minnetrista Pkwy in Muncie, Indiana on the White River Greenway. The name given to this amazing 40-acre campus means “gathering place by the water.” The grounds are the home of the ball canning jar. The Ball family moved their glass manufacturing company from Buffalo, New York in 1887 to the spot Minnestrista now occupies. The Ball Corporation was motivated to move to Muncie due to the discovery of natural gas in east-central Indiana.
The gas boom of 1876
The gas boom of 1876 caused the rapid industrialization of the area. George Alexander Ball built Oakhurst on the grounds. The mansion is now a part of Minnetrista. In 1918, Five Ball Brothers purchased the property where Ball State University now exists. The school was first called The Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division. The name changed in 1922 to Ball Teacher’s College. In 1965 the school officially became Ball State University. I have lived in Indiana most of my life and never knew this prestigious university was associated with the canning jar.
One of Rooster and I’s favorite motorcycle rides leads to the city of Muncie. We take the back roads to the city several times a year. We’ve flown past the houses on the Minnetrista Boulevard Historic District many times, but never stopped to investigate what these beautiful buildings were all about. We didn’t know Minnetrista existed before we pulled into the parking lot.
The woman watering the plants outside the gift store told us a little about the various gardens growing on the sprawling grounds. There were so many themed gardens it made you dizzy to think about them.
Culinary herb garden
There was a culinary herb garden, a wishing well garden, a rain garden, a rose garden, and others we never learned the names of. There was even a leaf gathering space. The gardeners at Minnetrista thought of everything. To say the grounds were beautiful would be an understatement. We didn’t visit the gardens because of the July heat and humidity Once we found the museum, it became the key focus of the trip. It is an amazing facility with three galleries. Two of the galleries were closed to the public due to a wedding on the day of our visit.
What caught our attention
What caught our attention and drew us to the museum was the enormous metal sculpture erected on the circular drive in front of the Minnetrista Cultural Center. It took 16 years from the opening of the center in 1988 for Virginia B. Ball to choose artist Beverly Stucker Precious to design and create the sculpture that adorns the entrance to the building.
Eventually, they loaded the enormous piece of art onto a semitrailer and carried it from Indianapolis to its current home at Minnetrista. The limestone quarried in Bloomington, 17,000 pounds of stainless steel, and another 2,000 pounds of glass make up the giant sculpture. The color of the glass change with the light. However, on our visit, they removed the glass and took it for repair.
Bob Ross filmed the joy of painting at WIPB in Muncie, Indiana. The Joy of Painting moved from Falls Church, Virginia to Muncie in 1984. For ten years, the frizzy-haired, soft-spoken painter filmed many of the episodes at Minnetrista.
During many of these half-hour broadcasts, I watched the man with a calm voice paint beautiful landscapes. I loved it when he painted his “happy little trees” onto the canvas. In September, Minnetrista is planning to open an exhibition dedicated to the time Ross spent taping his show at the cultural center.
Wrong time to catch the Minnetrista vibe
However, Rooster and I showed up at the wrong time to catch the true Minnetrista vibe. The glass was out for repair in Catalyst, we were too early for the Bob Ross gallery, and there was a wedding, which closed down a section of the top floor. We liked the parts of the museum we were able to tour. It was interesting to see all the Ball family items on display. The two movies available for viewing were interesting. The first was on the history of the Muncie, Indiana area.
The second was on the construction of Catalyst. We thought the “The Amazing Pollinators” exhibition was interesting. The adults were as fascinated with the exhibition as the children.
We didn’t carve out enough time in our day to stay and tour the grounds and never imagined this cultural center had so much to offer. Rooster and I are going to have to make a trip back to Minnetrista after the Bob Ross exhibition opens. It would be a shame to miss a show dedicated to the man who painted so many “happy little trees.”
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!