Millard Sheets (June 24, 1907 – March 31, 1989) was born in Pomona and encouraged at an early age to develop his talent. At age seven he began taking lessons from a neighbor, and at age 12 he won his first competition at the Los Angeles County Fair. Theodore Modra, the Director of Fine Arts at that time, became Sheets mentor. When Modra died in 1930, Sheets took over the directorship.
After graduating from Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, in 1929, Sheets entered and won a competition in San Antonio, Texas. The prize money enabled him to travel to South America, New York and Europe, giving him his first taste of world cultures that later became the passion of his art and life. After his return, Sheets married and settled in Claremont where he taught art at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School from 1931 to 1954. He was also instrumental in developing Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, as well as California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. During World War II, Sheets served as an artist-correspondent for LIFE Magazine.
Millard Sheets is credited with over 200 architectural designs and murals that span the United States. His artworks hangs in 46 museums in 15 states, including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Chicago Art Institute and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Locally his presence is evidenced in many building designs, mosaics, and wall paintings.
During Sheets’ 25-year tenure as Director of Fine Arts at the Los Angeles County Fair, he organized some of the most impressive exhibitions ever to be brought to Los Angeles. In 1937, he oversaw the WPA construction of a 12,000 sq. ft. building, the first major gallery dedicated solely to art in Los Angeles County. Most memorable are his post WWII exhibition, One World of Art; 6000 Years of Clay; and The Arts of Daily Living, extensively documented in House Beautiful Magazine. Over the years, he brought artwork from the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum and numerous National museums.
The gallery was dedicated to Millard Sheets in 1994. Speaking as the family spokesman, David Stary-Sheets prescribed, "The art exhibits of the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts shall strive to educate, aim to develop taste, and serve to stimulate thought. Works shown shall be of the highest quality, those that can stand the ‘test of time,’ those that have an important message to convey, and those that exhibit excellent fundamental skills. With an eye on the future, the gallery shall seek to interpret the continually evolving world of art as new interests, new materials and new messages arise."