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‘Good grief!’ Charlie Brown explores the natural world

Roseville Utility Exploration Center exhibit features eco-themed ‘Peanuts’ comic strips
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Poor Woodstock.

He may be Snoopy’s sidekick, but the bright yellow bird in the “Peanuts” comic strips suffers from an identity crisis. Just what kind of bird species is he? Maybe a barn swallow? A mourning warbler? Or, quite possibly a yellow-billed cuckoo?

“Peanuts” creator Charles Schultz explores this question in a series of comic strips, which are part of an interactive display in the Peanuts … Naturally exhibit, which opens Saturday, Feb. 4, and runs through April 29 at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center.

“(Schultz) picked a theme, like what kind of a bird Woodstock would be, and played off of that (in his comics),” said center Director Bob Garrison. “These are nature-based comic strips, but done in a whimsical way.”

Over the course of 50 years starting in 1950, Schultz published nearly 18,000 strips. During his prolific career, the cartoonist wrote several strips focused on his exploration of the natural world through Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the gang.

“He was into baseball and flying kites and everything,” Garrison said. “Out of the thousands of comic strips he did, obviously some fit into that (nature) theme.”

This temporary exhibit is on loan from the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, where the author lived for much of his life before he died in February 2000. Garrison said this is the first time Peanuts … Naturally will be displayed in the greater Sacramento region.

Whole Foods Market is sponsoring the exhibit, which costs $3,000. Matthew Davis, who works at the utility center, estimates there are about 50 pieces in the show.

“It’s amazing he had this many strips that were environmentally themed,” Davis said.

By the 1970s, “Peanuts” began to address environmental issues as American society grew more aware of water and air pollution. In 1970, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1977, Schultz created a multi-day storyline with Charlie Brown worried he’s in trouble with the agency.

Visitors also get the “Peanuts’” view on the universe, web of nature, trees, birds, the elements and gardening.

One activity station plays a seven-minute video Shultz made about air pollution for the American Lung Association in 1979.

The utility center gained access to the temporary exhibit through its membership in the California Association of Museums.

“I’m always looking out for something that fits our mission and this one fits perfectly,” Garrison said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Peanuts … Naturally
When:
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays from Saturday, Feb. 4, to Saturday, April 28. Grand opening celebration is 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3.
Where: Roseville Exploration Utility Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd.
Cost: Free. Grand opening celebration includes instructions by a local artist on drawing your favorite “Peanuts” character, photo opportunity with a life-size Snoopy.
Info: Call (916) 746-1550 or visit www.roseville.ca.us/peanuts