From the subtle zigzag pattern and oversized birdbath in the courtyard patio, to the ceramic tile mural a Japanese artist created using 3,588 comic strips, the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, celebrates the iconic images of the "Peanuts" gang and the life of the man who created them.
For 50 years, Charles "Sparky" Schulz drew the "Peanuts" comic strip that featured a group of precocious children facing everyday challenges, plus a beagle with a rich fantasy life. The insightful cartoons were published and loved worldwide, and their popularity continues even after Schulz' death in 2000.
Schulz moved his home and studio to Santa Rosa in 1969, and lived there for the rest of his life. The city embraced and remembers this quiet and unassuming man. The regional airport is named in his honor, and bronze Peanuts sculptures grace the airport, downtown's historic Railroad Square and Finley Community Center.
In 2005 the city sponsored a community art project that scattered 55 five-foot-tall and highly decorated statues of Charlie Brown around town. That was followed with Woodstock figures in 2006, Snoopy in 2007, and Lucy in 2010. Many of these whimsical pieces can be found on permanent display throughout the city.
The museum itself is located just across the street from Snoopy's Home Ice — the skating arena, café and gift shop designed and built by Schulz, close to his home and art studio.
"This is where his life was centered in his last 30 years," said Gina Huntsinger, general manager of the skating rink. "This is where he lived. He would draw, then he would have breakfast at the ice arena, and then he'd go back and draw more."
With clean, modern lines and a definite spirit of fun, this distinctive 27,000-square-foot museum takes its inspiration from the beloved comic strip.
The square pattern of the boxes in a daily comic strip are repeated both indoors and out. The museum's understated simplicity reflects Schulz's Midwestern routes and low-key approach to life.
"Everything was done with the thought of cartooning in mind, and so it would be modest and comfortable, and feel like home," Huntsinger said.
In the courtyard you'll find the "kite-eating tree" from the strip, and life-size statues of the characters. Angle your head down at that oversized birdbath and you'll see holographic images of Snoopy and Woodstock, who often hung out at the birdbath in the comic strip.
Some of the permanent displays include a re-creation of Schulz's studio, a timeline of his life, an original nursery wall that Schulz painted in his Colorado home in 1951, and a 100-seat theater that shows animated "Peanuts" specials and other programs.
Schulz drew some 18,000 strips in his lifetime, and the museum owns about 7,000. These are displayed 70 to 80 at a time, in a changing exhibit that highlights various themes in his work. Other changing exhibits focus on Schulz' stories, inspirations, and influences, and the art of cartooning in general.
This is primarily a museum for Peanuts fans who want to learn more about Schulz and his world-renowned comic strip, although there are activities and features that will engage the interest of young children.
Contact the museum directly for more events.
Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-549-4452, open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday to Friday (except Tuesdays) and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (closed Tuesdays); $12 adults; $8 seniors 62 or older; $5 youth/students (4-18 or with valid student ID); and free for children 3 and under or museum members.
Written by Patricia Henley