Center History

The Millard Sheets Center for the Arts began as the Fine Arts Program of the Los Angeles County Fair – art exhibitions have been an integral part of the Fair since its founding in 1922.  Each year, the art exhibitions produced for the Fair have featured artists from not only Los Angeles, but also California, the nation, and throughout the world and have presented contemporary as well as historical art in a variety of styles and media including painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, video, ceramics, drawing, architecture, and design.  The Fine Arts building, a 12,000 square foot gallery built in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration to house the program, was dedicated the Millard Sheets Gallery in 1994 to honor Pomona, California artist and teacher Millard Sheets (1907-1989), the Program’s director from 1930 to 1956.

Significant exhibitions produced by Sheets during his tenure include Masters of Art, 1790-1950, a survey of European and American paintings and sculptures which presented works by many of the most important artists from that period, among them Delacroix, Millet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Eakins, Marin, Rodin, Moore, and Brancusi, to name just a few.  Arthur Millier, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, wrote in his review, “The country’s greatest museums could be proud of this show.” More recent exhibitions produced for the Fair include California Landscapes & Earthscapes (1998), Carved, Chiseled, Cast: Figurative Sculpture (2002), and Latino Artists of Los Angeles: Defining Self & Inspiration (2005). Exhibitions produced outside the Fair in 2004 were, Master Woodworker, Sam Maloof: One Half Century of Woodworking and Design, and Envisioning the Future, a multi-disciplinary art project by Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman in collaboration with Cal Poly Pomona, the Pomona Arts Colony, and the Claremont Graduate Schools.

In 1998, the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts was incorporated as a nonprofit organization with the purpose of helping to fill a gap in the cultural opportunities available for Pomona-area residents.  The Gallery’s mission is to exhibit art that provokes curiosity, inspires interest, expands thinking, and educates people of all ages in order to enrich lives and advance the understanding of art’s intrinsic value to society.
 
The Board of Directors, recognizing the area’s need for greater access to quality arts education, developed a vision for the Gallery to become a year-round arts center, offering the Pomona and east Los Angeles County communities an opportunity to experience diverse and progressive art exhibitions combined with lively educational programs, with the goal of encouraging new generations of art enthusiasts.  In 2003, the Millard Sheets Gallery became a member of the Smithsonian Affiliations program in order to help share the Smithsonian Institution’s significant artifacts, programs, and expertise with our visitors. 

In 2004, the Board of Directors developed a two-year strategic plan, laying the groundwork for expanding the Gallery’s programming.  The plan included goals for assessing audience needs, developing a sustainable fund raising program, and upgrading the gallery facility.  In addition, the Board established a new position of Executive Director in 2005, realizing that professional leadership was an essential component of successful growth.  The Board is now embarking on a new strategic planning process, one that will help guide the Gallery towards fulfilling their vision to create a vital cultural resource in the community.

 

Historical Timeline

1922

Los Angeles County Fair debuts October 17 under six tents Theodore B. Modra organizes arts exhibitions at the Fair Millard Sheets wins first art competition at the Fair.

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1923
The fine art exhibits move out of tents and into a wooden building.
1924
Sheets becomes Modra’s assistant.
 
1926
Applied arts and crafts exhibitions first presented.
 
1931
Millard Sheets named Superintendent of the Fair’s Art Department, and Leta Horlocker, Director of Art Crafts Department.
 
1932
Juries and purchase prize established for fine art exhibition; non-juried amateur artwork presented under grandstand.
 
1933
A new arts and crafts building opens behind the Administration building, now known as Administration II building.
 
1937

The Los Angeles County Fair Gallery opens, designed by Los Angeles architect Claude Beelman, and built by the WPA.

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1937
The Theodore B. Modra Memorial Exhibition of Art, September 17 – October 3.
 
1938
National Sculpture Competition: Lawrence Tenney Stevens awarded purchase prize for his sculpture, Monument to Young Farmers of the Nation, to be installed in front of the Fine Arts Building.

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1940
Albert Stewart awarded first prize in sculpture at the L.A. County Fair.
 
1942-47
Los Angeles County Fair suspended during World War II.
 
1948
Los Angeles County Fair re-opens, Sheets noted for adding bright colors throughout the fairgrounds.
 
1950
Millard Sheets is named Director of Art
Masters of Art From 1790 to 1950 exhibition (50 paintings and 25 sculptures including Delacroix, Turner, Cezanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rodin, Moore among others)

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1951
One World of Art exhibition (work from 21 countries and cultures, spanning thousands of years from ancient Egypt to the present, including works by, Eakins, El Greco, and Constable, pre-Columbian, Asian, and Indian artwork). The Governor of California, Earl Warren, conducted with Sheets a televised walk-through of the exhibition for CBS; Richard Petterson named Director of Arts and Crafts.
 
1952
Albert Stewart and John Svenson created Bull Wall, a brick relief sculpture, in the patio of the Gallery.
 
1952
6000 Years Art in Clay exhibition (including ancient pottery and sculpture from Egypt, Greece, and China, along with contemporary pottery that incorporated Hamada, Leach, Natzler, Voulkos, among others.)
 
1953

John Svenson carved The Ranchero on site in the Court of the Redwoods.

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1953
Painting in the U.S.A., 1721 - 1953 exhibition (including Stuart, Sargent, Calder, Remington, Bellows, Motherwell, and Gottlieb, among others).
 
1954
The Arts of Daily Living exhibition, featured in House Beautiful magazine (showcasing Stewart, Svenson, Davenport Ford, Maloof, McIntosh and others).
 
1955
The Arts of Western Living exhibition.
 
1956
Contemporary American painting, sculpture and graphic art exhibition.
 
1957
Millard Sheets resigns as Director of the Fine Art Program of L.A. County Fair after 25 years.
 
1957
LA County Fair replaces fine art exhibition with amateur photography.
 
1960
Fine art exhibition returns to Fair organized by the Laguna Beach Art Assoc. (focusing on “objective, contemporary, representational work” sparking negative reaction by the faculty of Pasadena City College).
 
1962
Art-in-Action exhibit of arts and crafts organized by Richard Petterson.
 
1963
Art-in-Action exhibit continues.
 
1966
North American Indians are theme of art exhibition.
 
1967
Peruvian design focus of art exhibition.
 
1968
Eclectic assortment of interior design, and arts and crafts presented.
 
1969
Interior design again featured in Fine Arts Building.
1984
Richard Petterson resigns after 38 years with the Fine Arts program; David Svenson named new Director.
 
1985
Ralph Strane replaces Svenson.
 
1990
Mary Ellen Wehrli replaces Strane.
 
1992
Christy Johnson Micheli, Exhibit Coordinator, replaces Wehrli.
 
1994
“The Fine Art of American Craft – Featured Exhibit”

Fine Arts Building is dedicated The Millard Sheets Gallery after the Fine Arts program director and renowned artist Millard Sheets.
 
1995
Multiple Impressions featured exhibit.
 
1996
Art and the Athlete featured exhibit.
 
1997
Grins: Humor & Whimsy in Contemporary Art featured exhibit.
 
1998
Millard Sheets Gallery incorporated as a nonprofit, charitable organization.
California: landscapes & earthscapes featured exhibit
Christy Johnson Micheli appointed Curator.
 
1999
California Blend: tradition and change featured exhibit.
 
2000 ART
Art 2000: applauding revolutionary talent.
 
2001
The Art of Illusion featured exhibit.
Millard Sheets: A Collector’s Vision first exhibition presented outside of Fair, October 14 - 28.
 
2001
The Ranchero re-installed at west entrance of the Gallery.
 
2002
The Master of Form: Carl Milles, February 23 – March 31 (the exhibit was circulated by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.)
Carved, Chiseled, Cast: figurative sculpture featured Fair exhibit (exhibit extended beyond Fair).
 
2003

The “Living” Room: art as an accessory featured Fair exhibit honoring the 1954 Arts of Daily Living exhibition.

Millard Sheets Gallery becomes Smithsonian Institution Affiliate

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2004
Envisioning the Future, January 9 – February 29, a multi-disciplinary art project by Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman in collaboration with Cal Poly Pomona, the Pomona Arts Colony, and the Claremont Graduate Schools.
Master Woodworker, Sam Maloof: One Half Century of Woodworking and Design, April 3 – May 2.
Love, Whimsy & Wonder: Art from the Heart is featured Fair exhibition along with New Photography and Fine Art competitions
Christy Johnson resigns.
 
2005
Latino Artists of Los Angeles: Defining Self & Inspiration is featured Fair exhibition along with New Photography and Fine Art competitions
Dan Danzig appointed Executive Director.
 
2006

Fair Exchange, featured Fair exhibition along with New Photography competition. Curator: Irene Tsatsos; Consulting Curators: Glenn Phillips, Jeff Cain, Julie Deamer, and Veronica Wiman.

Beyond Heritage, November 2 – December 16, 2006, an exhibition that was a collaboration with the Riverside Art Museum, explored the Latino artists of the Inland Empire. Curated by Andi Campognone.

Dan Danzig leaves the position of Executive Director.

 
2007

The featured exhibition at the L.A. County Fair, A Tapestry of Life: The World of Millard Sheets, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Center’s namesake. Curated by Janet Blake and directed by Tony Sheets, the son of Millard.

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Gallery Store


Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex
1101 W. McKinley Ave. Pomona, CA 91768 Phone: (909) 865-4560