Carl Peterson Sculptures


Carl Peterson transformed his yard in St. James, Minnesota into an enchanted kingdom of animals, castles, churches, and towers. He began his work in the early 1920’s and created for more than 40 years. A son, Filbert, lived in the home until 1985, at which point a Minnesota art and antiques dealer purchased the work and dismantled the site.

Kohler Foundation was first made aware of Peterson’s work when a small group of sculptures went up for auction in Maine. Kohler Foundation acquired ten pieces at auction, brought them to Wisconsin, and had them fully conserved. This began the search for more information and ultimately the goal to reassemble as much of the original environment as possible.

Research led Kohler Foundation to dealer Jerry Czulewicz, from whom a large collection of Peterson’s work was acquired. Excavation was undertaken at the original St. James location, and a wealth of missing pieces and parts were found. Extensive conservation treatment has brought the pieces back to their original beauty. Further research has allowed Kohler Foundation to acquire some of Peterson’s small works that were held by family members and others.

Many Peterson sculptures are now installed in the gardens of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Small works are housed indoors. This is an excellent example of bringing the elements of a site back together when preservation in situ is not a possibility. They are being cared for to museum standards and are accessible to the public rather than being scattered among private collections or left to deteriorate. The Peterson family has honored us with several visits and they have been pleased to see the work of Carl Peterson brought back together.