Banking On The Fine Art Of Millard Sheets

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Fifty years ago “Street art” had a whole different meaning. Millard Sheets was one of dozens of artists who had their work exhibited at high-end stores, municipal buildings and banks like Home Savings of America, which installed sculpture and mosaics outside each of their branches. Permanent art like this grounded the institutions in our oceans of growing suburbs and provided instant landmarks. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Conservancy led a tour to Sheet’s hometown of Pomona and showed off some of his best remaining works. Visitors passed the endangered Home Savings tower anchoring downtown Pomona and strolled down the 2nd Street Mall, one of the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian malls that today is host to galleries and antique shops. Arts and culture groups from Claremont mixed and mingled at the Garrison Theater at Scripps College, adorned with a Shakespearian Sheets mosaic thirty feet high. The menagerie of modernist fish and fowl at his former studio are nearly overgrown with lush gardens. His former office is impeccably maintained and used as an eye clinic. When the FDIC seized Pomona First Federal bank in 2009, his massive history mural inside was threatened until the American Museum of Ceramic Art was able to purchase and restore it the following year. The museum’s inaugural show features Sheets and other mid-century artists of the inland valley like John Svenson and Betty Davenport Ford who attended the festivities and signed books for a new generation of admirers. Kudos to the Conservancy for helping us appreciate the roadside art gallery, but I must remember to pull over before admiring the artwork. I nearly spun out in the rain trying to photograph a mosaic I found on the way home. Enjoy this gallery from the tour “Millard Sheets: A Legacy of Art & Architecture.”