The Santa Monica Public Library teams up with the Society of Architectural Historians, Southern California Chapter, for the program “Authors on Architecture: Adam Arenson on Millard Sheets” on Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Author and Huntington Library scholar-in-residence Adam Arenson provides an advance look at his forthcoming book with the projected title “Privately Sponsored Public Art: The Millard Sheets Studio, Home Savings and Loan, and the Corporate Creation of a New American Urban History.” For more than three decades, Millard Sheets and his studio of artists designed Home Savings and Loan branches throughout California, studding their iconic projects with mosaics, murals, stained glass, and sculptures that celebrated both family life and the history of the Golden State. The collaboration between the Millard Sheets Studio and Howard Ahmanson, a Home Savings executive, resulted in more than forty branches designed and built between the completion of the first collaboration in 1955 and Ahmanson’s death in 1968, as well as more than one hundred additional projects created before the sale of Home Savings to Washington Mutual in 1998.
This is the first book-length study of these Home Savings buildings, which covers Sheets and Ahmanson’s visions for these institutions as they shaped the corporate and cultural landscapes of Southern California. It explores the mystery of why Home Savings and Loan, a financial institution that rose to lead the nation in deposits, commissioned hundreds of murals and paintings. It advances contemporary urban history by connecting this corporate investment in public memory with the long history of commercial patronage dating to the Renaissance, as well as to the recent history of percentage-for-public-art regulations.
Combining private investment and fine-arts methods and championing historical themes in a period of dramatic cultural and political change, the Home Savings and Loan buildings are signature structures of Mid-Century Modern architecture, and their story deserves to be known, before it is too late to save these remarkable works. Arenson is an associate professor of history and the director of Urban Studies at Manhattan College in the Bronx, New York. His richly-illustrated book will be the first published monograph on Sheets.
This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-arrival basis. The Santa Monica Public Library is wheelchair accessible. For special disabled services, call Library Administration at (310) 458-8606 at least one week prior to event. For more information, visit smpl.org or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.