A little bit of St. Paul halfway around the world

Marjorie Otto photos/Review • As a part of the sister city relationship St. Paul has with Changsha, China, five “Peanuts” sculptures will be sent to Changsha as a part of a gift exchange. The city of Changsha will give St. Paul a replica of its famous Aiwan Pavilion, to be installed at Lake Phalen Regional Park.

Changsha is considered to be an ancestral home of the Hmong people. As a part of the representation of the Hmong of St. Paul and the tie to their ancestral home, the sculpture of Lucy will be painted in traditional Hmong clothing, as designed by artist Kao Lee Thao.

The sculpture of Snoopy’s doghouse will feature Minnesota imagery, including a loon, monarch butterflies and pink lady slippers. They will be painted in the style of traditional Chinese brushwork, as designed by artist Yudong Shen.

This architectural rendering shows what the replica of the AIwan Pavilion will look like when installed at Lake Phalen Regional Park in the late spring of 2018. courtesy of the City of St. Paul

The “Peanuts” characters are going to China.

Following a resolution passed by the St. Paul City Council this summer, sculptures of the characters will be exchanged with St. Paul’s sister city Changsha, a city in Hunan Province in southeastern China.

Planning for the gift exchange began in 2015, when a delegation from St. Paul, including mayoral staff and members of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society, visited Changsha. During the trip, the city of Changsha announced it would give St. Paul a replica of its famous Aiwan Pavilion. The exchange is a part of a sister city relationship that began in 1988. 

“It was a big shock,” said Bill Zajicek, treasurer for the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society. 

He said the organization knew it needed to provide a reciprocal gift and spent weeks brainstorming with city staff to come up with a meaningful gift. 

They decided on the “Peanuts” statues, as city staff and board members felt it represented the “whimsical nature of our culture.” Zajicek added the “Peanuts” characters are also very popular in China.

Five characters will be set to China: Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, Lucy and Snoopy, again, on his dog house.

Hunan Province and the city of Changsha are considered to be the ancestral homes of the Hmong people. To tie in the Hmong connection between Changsha and St. Paul, Lucy will be painted in traditional Hmong clothing, as designed by local artist Kao Lee Thao. Snoopy’s doghouse will be painted with Minnesota imagery — a loon, pink lady slippers and monarch butterflies. 

The doghouse art was designed by local artist Yudong Shen and will be painted in the style of traditional Chinese brushwork. 

The statues will in installed in Yanghu Wetlands Park in Changsha, the sister-park of Lake Phalen Regional Park. 


A little piece of

 St. Paul history

The statues may look familiar to many St. Paulites — they’re cast from the same molds that were used to create the “Peanuts” sculptures that were featured across the city from 2000 to 2004, when the city decided to honor Charles Shultz and his artwork.

The sculptures are constructed and painted by Mendota Heights-based company Tivoli Too. It originally started out as a jewelry store in St. Paul and began creating “Peanuts” products in 1989, with a charm bracelet line. Today it fabricates a variety of sculptures for miniature golf courses, amusement parks and other custom fabrications.

The creator of the company, Randi Johnson, was good friends with Charles Schultz and his family, and still are today, hence the company being tasked with the creation of the sculptures. 

During a recent tour of the business, Johnson’s brother, Hart, showed how the iconic statues are made, from the molds from which the sculptures are cast, to the delicate airbrush painting the artists do.

It was the first time board members from the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society saw the nearly-completed sculptures.

“I want to cry,” said Zajicek when he saw the sculptures, adding it’s been a long two years with a lot of starts and stops, not knowing if the creation of the gifts would happen. 

“It’s such a nice partnership,” Hart said of the sister city exchange. 

The sculptures will be finished in a few weeks and shipped to Changsha in the spring of 2018. Changsha will ship and install the replica of the Aiwan Pavilion at the same time.

Overall, the exchange is a part of a larger project, the creation of the Chinese Friendship Garden at Lake Phalen. 

The replica pavilion will be the first phase of the garden’s construction.

The estimated $7 million project will eventually include an entrance arch, a donor wall, a Hmong Embroidery Wall representing the historical connection between the Hmong in Minnesota and the Hmong in the Changsha area, and a site for a future cultural gift from the Changsha Hmong. Future phases will include a Hmong Cultural Plaza and a lakeside pavilion with a covered walkway and an arched bridge.

The garden will be built at a site north of the Phalen Park picnic pavilion and water channel, east of the stone arch bridge along Lake Phalen.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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