The Visionary World of Millard Sheets: Landmarks & Lore of Claremont and Pomona

More than any other artist, Millard Sheets shaped the look and feel of Mid-Century Modern art and architecture in California, through his many themed mosaic murals for Home Savings & Loan branches and such high profile commissions at the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard. Sheets was born in Pomona, and was the founding director of the art department at Scripps College and the Otis College of Art and Design, before resigning both jobs to tackle commissions in his Claremont studio, overseeing a team of architects, mosaicists, sculptors and fellow painters. Join Adam Arenson (author of Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California) and Esotouric for a thrilling day out exploring a wide variety of Sheets Studio commissions, and other Mid-Century Modernist gems, in and around the community the artist called home.

Locations To Include

Pomona Mall

In 1962, Pomona commissioned Millard Sheets to create a master plan for the first pedestrian mall west of the Mississippi. We’ll stroll the mall to see the artwork Sheets produced for the project, and learn about the materials and motifs favored by his studio.

Chase Tower

As part of the mall project, Sheets designed artwork for landmark buildings to anchor each end. The tower was the first large building designed for Home Savings and Loan, inspiring a new approach to large scale integrated mural and facade design.

The American Museum of Ceramic Art – AMOCA

Before Millard Sheets worked exclusively with Howard Ahmanson’s Home Savings, he created historically-minded murals for Pomona First Federal and other savings and loans. We’ll visit AMOCA, housed in this former bank building which still features Sheets’ longest mural, a panoramic history of the Pomona Valley, from the first settlements to the Victorian era. The museum also houses one of the large-scale figurative mosaics removed from the Scottish Rite Temple by the Marciano Art Foundation, which is brought down to eye-level to provide rare insights into Sheets’ architectural mosaic technique.

US Bank

The former Pomona First Federal in Claremont demonstrates the Sheets Studio approach to design in decoration, from the pavilion and lotus columns to the large mosaic in front and the large mural inside, reflecting on the experience of Native Californians. Here you’ll learn about the studio’s work process, and how it continued after Sheets’ retirement, in the form of a small mosaic for an ATM, created by Sheets’ former chief assistant Denis O’Connor.

Claremont Eye Associates

Millard Sheets designed this studio campus to house the architects, mosaicists and muralists who were his collaborators, and birds and plants that would help inspire their designs. Here you’ll see the training mosaics embedded in the property and the first stained-glass window that Sheets designed, all testaments to the experimentation that fed into the development of the mature Home Savings Style.

Claremont United Church of Christ

Millard Sheets was a member of the church, and he led a team of artists and architects who designed this new building in 1955. Sheets integrated mosaics, woodwork, stained glass and ceramic elements into the whole, foreshadowing the use of many of these materials in his commercial commissions.

Kresge Chapel by Edward Durrell Stone

Architect Edward Durrell Stone worked with Sheets on the largest Home Savings commission, the Ahmanson Center. We will visit the master-planned campus of the Claremont School of Theology to tour one of the masterpieces of Stone’s New Formalist style, with its soaring vertical windows and Sam Maloof cross and altar furnishings. With the CST’s planned move to Oregon, this may be your last opportunity to see the chapel in its classic form.