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Architectural Designer Millard Sheets (1907-1989) designed some of the most recognizable and popular commercial buildings in the Los Angeles area. Trained as an artist rather than an architect, Sheets incorporated regional artists’ work into the design of his buildings, a process which came to define his signature style.
Born and raised in Pomona, California, Millard Sheets displayed a talent for art at a young age. He enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute after graduating from high school in 1927. While at Chouinard, Sheets began to experiment in several different mediums and techniques, which figured largely in many of his later architectural projects.
Sheets believed that architects and artists should work together throughout the design process, collaboratively integrating art into a building’s design early on, rather than placing artwork on a finished building as an afterthought. This integration gave Sheets’ projects an exciting presence and personality not found in other commercial structures at the time. Sheets also created buildings that connected with the public on an emotional level, using artwork that depicted local or historical themes significant to the surrounding community.
While Sheets’ projects received mixed reviews from architectural critics, his innovative approach to design proved popular with the public, who continue to be drawn to the colorful murals and bold sculptures that distinguish his buildings. This integration of art and architecture is a defining feature of Sheets’ buildings, which underscores the importance of protecting both structure and site-specific art together.
In 2020, the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum at Cal State University, Long Beach acquired a historic Millard Sheets mosaic mural from 1975--1977. Click the link below to view a mini-documentary showing the de-installation process and ongoing conservation efforts. The re-installation of the mural is slated for the newly expanded museum in 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAXXA59S7jA
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Credits: Architect(s) and Year Constructed; Millard Sheets with Langdon & Wilson 1963, Millard Sheets 1961, Millard Sheets 1956, Millard Sheets 1968, B.H. Anderson 1956, Millard Sheets 1969, Millard Sheets with S. David Underwood 1963, Millard Sheets with B.H. Anderson and S. David Underwood 1956-1959, Millard Sheets with Theodore Criley, Jr. 1955-1963, Millard Sheets 1970; Photos Courtesy of Alan Hess, Larry Underhill, Adian Scott Fine and Jessica Hodgdon/L.A. Conservancy