Museum of Science and Industry targets blockheads with ‘Charlie Brown’ exhibit
BY KARA SPAK Staff Reporteremail@example.com November 1, 2012 11:50AM
"Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit" runs through Feb. 18, 2013, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times Media
‘Charlie Brown and the Great
◆ Through Feb. 18, 2013
◆ Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
◆ General admission: $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, $10 for children 3-11. The “Peanuts” exhibit requires an additional, timed-entry ticket: $5 for adults and seniors; $3 for children 3-11.
◆ Visit www.msichicago.org
Updated: November 1, 2012 1:36PM
It’s a great exhibit, Charlie Brown.
Cue up the Vince Guaraldi Trio and head to Hyde Park. Snoopy and the Peanuts gang have invaded the Museum of Science and Industry through February in a new temporary exhibit.
“Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit” offers information on the cartoon icons along with a close look at Charles Schulz, the man behind the long-running comic. Curated by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., Schulz’s home in California wine country, the temporary exhibit is the largest one the Schulz museum has done in the United States and was designed specifically for the MSI.
“Schulz owns the fall in American culture,” said Karen Johnson, director of the Schulz Museum and Research Center, noting that America’s holiday season has a distinctly Peanuts bent, from the Great Pumpkin to Charlie Brown’s sad little Christmas tree. “Everybody has a relationship with Charles Schulz.”
Johnson said the exhibit was designed to give visitors a look into the mind of Schulz, nicknamed Sparky.
“I ask you to look for, to hear Sparky’s voice, to hear what it was like for him to draw,” she said.
And draw he did. Schulz drew 17,897 Peanuts strips over his 50-year career. He retired in December 1999 and died two months later at 77 years old, hours before his final Peanuts Sunday cartoon appeared in papers.
“He was a wonderful man and he poured it all out into his strip,” said Brooke Clyde, Schulz’s stepson, who traveled with Johnson to Chicago for the exhibit’s opening. Clyde was 15 years old when his mother Jean Forsyth Clyde married Schulz. Brooke Clyde said it was a “little bit of a shock” to suddenly be living with the man behind Peanuts, which he read in his local newspaper.
“The more time I spend here the more I realize how much of a Midwestern he was,” Clyde said of Schulz, who was born and raised in Minneapolis.
Schulz was an introvert, his stepson said.
“He was very stay-at-home, he didn’t like to travel,” Clyde said. “He liked to be at home.”
And a critical piece of his home, the office where he drew Peanuts, is re-created in the museum exhibit. There is also a life-size Charlie Brown Christmas tree, a giant version of Schroeder’s piano kids can play as well as a wall of words where kids can help Snoopy finally write that “dark and stormy” novel.
For the past three years, the MSI has offered exhibits running through the holidays that look at the process behind the creation of beloved childhood icons. Two years ago the museum hosted a look at Jim Henson, the man behind the Muppets, and last year the exhibit focused on Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. The trees in the museum’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light celebration, now in its 71st year, are adorned with decorations inspired by the exhibits.
It’s part of the museum’s efforts to provide a multi-generational experience over the holidays. Grandparents and their grandkids, for instance, both know who Snoopy is.
“These exhibits have been really popular,” said Anne Rashford, the MSI’s director of temporary exhibits. “It’s a tradition to come to the museums (over the holidays). It’s a chance to share their childhood memories with them.”
And while the exhibits don’t necessarily have a strong science or technology component, Rashford said they still fit into the museum’s ethos.
“Our mission is to inspire the inventive genius in everyone,” she said. “The beginning of invention is creativity.”
Five Fast Facts about Peanuts and Charles Schulz
1) In 1934, a young Charles Schulz got a black and white dog named Spike, a boisterous pooch believed to understand about 50 words. Spike was the model for Snoopy, who started out walking on all fours. Spike was also the name of Snoopy’s desert-dwelling brother.
2) When he was two days old, an uncle nicknamed Schulz “Sparky” after a horse named Spark Plug found in the Barney Google comic.
3) In 1990, a Peanuts exhibit debuted at the Musee du Louvre in Paris. That same year, the French Minister of Culture awarded the prestigious Commandeur de L’Ordre des Artes et des Letters to Schulz.
4) Schulz worked 6 weeks ahead of time for his daily strip and 10 weeks ahead of time for the Sunday comic. He threw away his sketches at the end of each workday so few originals remain.
5) “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” was on the New York Times’ best-seller list for 45 weeks.