Photographer and filmmaker tells ‘A Roseville Story’

Bob Murphy in his Roseville home studio. photo courtesy of Bob Murphy

Roseville mixed media artist Bob Murphy will present photos, such as this shot of the Rose Drive-In, and other work, during a presentation called “A Roseville Story” on Sept. 22 at the Roseville Library. photo courtesy of Bob Murphy

The intersection of Larpenteur and Snelling avenues while under construction. photo courtesy of Bob Murphy

The intersection of Larpenteur and Snelling avenues while under construction. photo courtesy of Bob Murphy

Larpenteur and Hamline avenues. photo courtesy of Bob Murphy

How does a place influence the person?

For mixed media artist Bob Murphy, a lifelong Roseville resident save for a stint in the U.S. Army, the question of location affects an individual’s entire outlook.

He hopes to address how that works, and maybe more, with his upcoming presentation, “A Roseville Story.”

“I was looking at what influenced our hopes and our dreams and our expectations,” says Murphy, who turned 69 this month. “How does our environment influence those things early in our life?”

Murphy’s presentation is Saturday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m. at the Roseville Library, a part of Arts Roseville’s Featured Artist series.

Murphy will show photographs of Roseville in the 1960s and 70s — “things that people will recognize” — along with a short film, paintings and some of his contemporary work.

There’s an element of nostalgia in the presentation, Murphy says, which is important and he expects it to draw people in. However, he says, he’s most concerned with the present.

“I’m not so much interested in the past,” he says, “as I am in how the past affects what we’re doing right now.”


Changed perspective

Born in Roseville and a product of the city’s school system — he’s an Alexander Ramsey graduate — Murphy was drafted and ended up in Frankfurt, Germany.

His first foray into photography was there in Frankfurt, when he found himself at an anti-American protest. “The people were protesting me,” he says.

“I did not know how to make photographs at that time but I ventured into the crowd and started taking pictures,” Murphy says. “That experience made me curious about how to turn my experiences into two dimensions.”

Though he says those first few rolls of film were unremarkable because “you couldn’t see anything about what I felt,” he’d been changed. “I started looking at the world with a little bit of a different perspective than I did previously.”

Upon returning stateside, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota where he studied photography and filmmaking. He says he’s been an artist since, with experience working for an ad agency and as a college teacher.

Murphy says college was a very important time in his life and is when he began to focus his work on Roseville.

“Roseville was a great place to be a kid and come of age,” he says, noting that he and his friends, though probably not everyone, experienced something along the lines of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” TV show.

“You could drive around Roseville and recognize those things you saw on television,” he says. “The things that go on inside homes are much more complicated.”

“When I got back home to the university, I started looking at my neighborhood ... and when I did that I discovered a place I didn’t even know existed.”


Art for the community

Murphy says he learned about Arts Roseville after reading a story about its reboot late last year.

Formerly known as the Roseville Arts Council, the nonprofit had been dormant for six years when in March 2017 a new board of directors breathed new life into it and gave it a new name. The board just held its second retreat last month.

“Hey, you know what, we got a lot done this last year,” was a realization that came out of that gathering says Ross Willits, one of the board members involved in regrouping the organization.

Beyond the Featured Artist series at the library, which debuted in April, Willits says Arts Roseville has been working to reconnect with artists and organizations that were involved with the previous arts council and is also putting together a registry of local artists and places friendly to the arts.

He says other events have included annual meetings and an ice cream social held “on the rainiest night of July.”

Willits says one more Featured Artist program is scheduled for October, before the event takes off the packed holiday season, and returns in February. 

A major program that’s still in the planning stages is a collaboration with St. Paul-based arts organization Mosaic on a Stick, which will work with Roseville youth to create a number of mosaics in the city.


Starting conversations

“That’s the kind of work that we want to do,” Willits says. “To have an impact on Roseville, the youth of Roseville, the many communities of Roseville, to say we’re all here, we all have a voice, we all want to have a voice in the direction that Roseville moves.”

Murphy says he’s happy to be involved with the organization, and echoes Willits’ sentiments.

“I have long felt that we needed more of a sense of community related to the arts,” he says. “That’s one of the purposes of Arts Roseville — to develop that sense of community and to offer more arts experiences to the diverse communities we have in Roseville.”

As for “A Roseville Story,” Murphy says he wants it to start conversations.

“I hope [attendees] get a feeling about the significance of the environment we live in and how important art is,” he says, “how it strengthens our community and how it adds to the richness of our life, and how it brings us together.”


– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813

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