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Iconic Santa Monica Mural Finds New Home in Orange County

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include the City's role in the transfer.

By Jorge Casuso

June 5, 2019 -- A mural that for generations of Santa Monicans captured the essence of their city's beach culture has found a new home more than 45 miles away.

"Pleasures Along the Beach" -- artist Millard Sheets' colorful glass mosaic on corner of 26th Street and Wilshire Boulevard -- will be relocated to the City of Orange, the firm in charge of the relocation announced Wednesday.

The mural, along with the accompanying stained glass and bronze sculptures, will become part of the permanent collection of the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University.

Pleasures Along the Beach by Millard Sheets
"Pleasures Along the Beach" by Millard Sheets ( Photo by Peter Leonard Courtesy of Santa Monica Conservancy)

The artworks are being relocated under a settlement agreement between the City of Santa Monica and the owner of the former savings and loan building where the artworks have stood in the courtyard for half a century

Under the settlement agreement, the City had 90 days to find a home for all of the artworks, said Xiliary Twil of Art Asset Management Group, Inc., the firm in charge of the transfer.

"That was then extended to another 30, for a total of 120 days to find a home, but they declined to do so," Twil said.

"Tony Sheets, the son of Millard Sheets has approved the removal and recommended the Hilbert Museum of California Art as a potential donee," Twil said. "They accepted it graciously."

Local preservationists lamented the loss of the works.

"We're really distressed that we're losing a landmark," said Ruthann Lehrer, a member of the Santa Monica Conservancy and former Landmarks Commissioner.

"On the plus side all the artworks will be together and reinstalled in a new locale where they will be in public view and available for study," Lehrer said.

Benefactors Mark and Janet Hilbert -- who founded the museum where the artworks will be housed -- "have deep roots in the California community," Twil said.

Since beginning to collect art in 1992, the couple has amassed a vast collection of works by California artists from the 1930s to the 1970s, including water colors by Sheets, Twil said.

The Hilbert Museum -- which so far this year has drawn more than 30,000 visitors -- showcases the works of "the figurative artists of our state that might have been forgotten as objects of the past," Twil said.

The museum plans to integrate the artworks into the museum, Chapman University and the city of Orange, whose downtown is seeing a "major re-invigoration," Twil said.

The museum is "currently in preparation for receiving the artworks," she said.

Under the agreement with the City, Mark Leevan, who owns the Santa Monica building that features the half-century old mural, agreed to preserve the artwork and donate it to the City or a nonprofit organization.

The City agreed to revoke the historic designation, block any new application for five years and paid Leevan $250,000 ("Iconic Santa Monica Mosaic Could Be Removed Under Legal Settlement," September 5, 2018).

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