Photos by Asia Morris. Detail of the Millard Sheets Studios mosaic showing through the uncovering process.
What has long been a seemingly blank panel fronting the International City Bank building at 249 East Ocean Boulevard will soon give way to a much more colorful work of public art.
Millard Sheets, the artist and architect whose studio is most known for laying vibrant mosaics on modern bank buildings throughout Southern California in the 1950s and onward, left a mark on Long Beach in 1979 with a mosaic depicting oil rigs, ships and portrayals of rancho life.
Rockwell Properties, LLC, the new owners of the building as of January 2018, according to company representative Edward Ahdoot, are now working to uncover and restore the colorful, glass-tiled work of art designed by Susan Hertel, noted as head mosaic designer at Millard Sheets Studios in this 2012 article by the Post.
“We’re very lucky because so far we can see that it’s only missing two or three tiles, and that’s amazing for a work of art that’s been here more than 30 years, and it’s going to give a huge color pop to the building,” said Ahdoot.
Maureen Neeley, a local historian, told the Post in 2012 that whoever covered the mural were professionals expecting the mosaic to eventually be reactivated.
Working in partnership with International City Bank, the company plans on hand-scrubbing small areas of the mosaic at a time using a chemical that won’t strip the tiles of their color, but still removes the stucco, said Ahdoot.
“[…]We are expecting it to have over 100 colors, whoever closed this off really did a great job because it’s not very difficult for us to get it open, we’re going to be covering it so that we’ll have a grand unveiling,” said Ahdoot.
The unveiling of the restored mosaic is tentatively scheduled for July.
Sheets had a hand in developing the Scripps College art department in Claremont and the creation of both Otis Art Institute and CalArts, according to Curbed Los Angeles, which in 2012 celebrated “Sheets Week”, a look into the history of the artist and his studio. More than 100 Los Angeles-area Home Savings bank buildings were designed by Millard Sheets Studio, as well as their attached artworks.
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