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Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California


Beginning in the early 1950’s, artist Millard Sheets began working with artistically-minded businessman Howard Ahmanson to build Home Savings branches throughout California. Sheets designed mosaics for the façades, as well as many of the buildings themselves. Sheets also coordinated contributions from other artists, such as sculptor Albert Stewart. The unique partnership led to dozens of buildings that became landmarks of historical importance. But what happened when Home Savings closed and the buildings were sold? In many cases, these murals were demolished or painted over, but some have been preserved and saved through determined efforts.

Banking on Beauty, by Adam Arenson, associate professor of history and the director of the urban studies program at Manhattan College, presents the first history of this remarkable building program. Drawing extensively on archival materials, site visits, and oral history interviews, Arenson tells a fascinating story of how the architecture and art were created, the politics of where the branches were built, and how the scenes celebrated local history amid the cultural and political changes of the times. He makes a strong case for the enduring value of these examples of Mid-century Modern architecture.

Friday, Jan 24 at Loyola Marymount University, 12:15 pm

Saturday, Jan 25 at Hennessey + Ingalls DTLA, 6 pm