Millard Owen Sheets (born in Pomona June 24, 1907 – March 31, 1989) and representative of the California School of Painting, later a teacher and educational director. As a teenager, his watercolors were accepted for exhibition in the annual California Water Color Society shows and by nineteen, he was elected into membership. At twenty, even before he graduated from Chouinard Art Institute, he was hired to teach watercolor painting while completing other aspects of his art education.
By the early 1930s, he was well on his way to national recognition as a prominent American artist. He was recognized as the leading figure and driving force behind the California Style Watercolor Movement. Between 1935 and 1941, the recognition, awards, and his output of high quality art increased. He was mentioned in numerous issues of Art Digest. Sales of art enabled him to travel to Europe, Central America and Hawaii, where he painted on location. Although his watercolor painting techniques during this period varied from very tight to very loose, his personal style always came through.
During World War II, he was an artist-correspondent for Life magazine and the United States Army Air Forces in India and Burma. Many of his works from this period document the scenes of famine, war and death that he witnessed. This experience also affected his post war art for a number of years. Many of his works from the 1940s, painted in California and Mexico, reflect these mood shifts, especially when he used dark tonal values and depressing subject matter. After the 1950s, his style changed again, this time featuring brighter colors and often depicting subjects from his travels around the world.
Watercolor and oil painting was only part of Sheets' art career. Through his teaching at Chouinard Art Institute, Otis Art Institute, Scripps College and other institutions, hundreds of artists were taught how to paint, and then guided into an art career. He was director of the art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona for many years and brought world class art to Southern California. Beginning in 1952, working directly for Howard F. Ahmanson, Sr., Sheets not only designed the mosaics for dozens of branch offices of Home Savings of America throughout California, he designed the buildings as well, and coordinated contributions from other artists such as sculptor Albert Stewart.
Outside of California he was commissioned for artwork at the Detroit Public Library, the Mayo Clinic, the dome of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., the University of Notre Dame Library, the Hilton Hotel in Honolulu and Mercantile National Bank in Dallas. In 1953 Millard Sheets was appointed Director of Otis Art Institute (later named Otis College of Art and Design). Under his leadership, the school's academic program was restructured so that BFA and MFA degrees were offered. By the time Sheets left Otis in 1960, the look and direction of the college had changed dramatically. The Library at Otis was named after him in 1997.
The Millard Sheets Art Center first began as the Fine Arts Program of the Los Angeles County Fair in 1922. The 20,000+ square-foot art center was built in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration to house the program, the first major gallery dedicated solely to art in Los Angeles County. Each year the gallery provided visitors to the Los Angeles County Fair with access to art work found throughout the world. In 1994 the building was dedicated to Millard Sheets and in 2013 was identified by Fairplex as the home for year round art education and exhibitions and is currently a part of The Learning Centers at the Pomona Fairplex