From 1969 onwards, a panoramic Millard Sheets mural marked the entry to the Santa Monica Home Savings branch. “Pleasures Along the Beach” is the name. The mural depicts the sunset, the ocean, sailboats, sunbathers, blankets, people playing with a beach ball, birds in flight.
Those pleasures remain, but “Pleasures Along the Beach” does not. The mural was removed from the building in 2019 and put in storage. (“No more ‘Pleasures Along the Beach’ ” was the headline of the Santa Monica Lookout story.)
Now, the mural has been unearthed and repaired at a locale far from the beach: Claremont. That’s in preparation for its final destination in Orange.
I caught the tail end of the work on Wednesday at the former Candlelight Pavilion dinner theater, originally Claremont High’s theater. Brian Worley, a Claremont artist, was overseeing it.
On the carpeted floor of the theater, the mural — in 570 jagged sections — was pieced together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Ample floor space was a necessity: The mural’s dimensions are 16 feet high and 41 feet long. That’s almost the distance between a basketball backboard and the half-court line.
“I needed a huge laydown space,” Worley told me. “It was wonderful that I was able to have use of the building.”
For Worley, this is more than another conservation project. The artist, 73, worked for Sheets, the prolific watercolorist, architectural designer and arts impresario who died in 1989. The Sheets studio was on Foothill Boulevard in Claremont, just blocks east of the theater.
Worley worked on what he said were “easily, 50” of the 200-some Home Savings buildings that Sheets designed.
In fact, he even did some of the background details on “Pleasures Along the Beach.”
“I was a student at Pomona College. My aunt, Nancy Colbath, was running the studio. I would do work for pocket change,” Worley said. “I worked the summer there between my junior and senior years.”
Four years later, Worley had barely returned from study and fun in Europe when Colbath died.
“They needed help in the studio,” Worley said. So he pitched in for what he assumed would be a temporary job.
“Eight years later, I was still there,” he said, chuckling. “I got to help create a lot of murals.”
Worley was part of the studio from 1974-1983, past Sheets’ retirement. He and Alba Cisneros may be the only Sheets alumni still active.
Worley spent most of the rest of his working life as head of facilities at first the University of La Verne and then Claremont McKenna College before retiring about eight years ago.
“But all the while I kept my hands in public art,” Worley said.
He produced a brushed stainless steel mural of orange and lemon trees at ULV’s Citrus Hall, a cut-glass mosaic on White Avenue near the railroad crossing and two granite murals of old La Verne scenes for a mixed-use development called La Verne Village.
In Claremont, he’s responsible for entry markers at either end of Foothill Boulevard. One is a block away from Sheets’ old studio.
Worley has moved into conservation of public art, including multiple murals done or overseen by Sheets, such as the tiled fountains in downtown Pomona and a Home Savings mural now at the Kleefeld Contemporary in Long Beach.
Next month he’ll be in Redlands repairing mosaics on the former Home Savings branch there, the subject of a column here in May.
The Santa Monica mosaic is made up of thousands of pieces of Murano glass from Italy. Removing it from the wall meant bringing the wall with it, in pieces.
“We used pneumatic, diamond-bladed, wet chain saws,” Worley explained with a smile. “We had to cut into the mortar bed behind the mosaic. There were 570 sections cut out.”
Each section was labeled with a number on blue masking tape to correspond with numbers on a scale image of the mural, then packed away. An art broker with the evocative name Xiliary Twil found a home for it: the Hilbert Museum of California Art.
The museum in Orange is undergoing renovation and adding a second building that will nearly triple its space. The mural will be mounted outdoors, just as it was in Santa Monica, in this case on an open-topped steel structure, 12 feet from the ground, that will span and connect the two buildings.
The mural will face anyone entering the museum, which itself fronts a Metrolink station.
“When people get off the train, this will be the first thing they see,” Worley said. “It’ll be the public face of the Hilbert.”
In Claremont beginning in April, the pieces were unwrapped, reassembled and evaluated. Missing glass was filled in from Worley’s extensive collection of tiles, sorted by color in plastic cartons.
“This is my stash from when I worked in the studio,” Worley said with pride. “Yes, it’s 50 years old. But I’ve added to it since.”
RLA Conservation was putting the finished pieces in bubble wrap and placing them in crates after Worley stuck fresh labels on each.
The old theater, by the way, is undergoing interior demolition for a new use as a high-end gym, Worley said. You read it here first.
The mural is due to go up at the Hilbert in November. Worley will be part of that, too.
Assisting with the mural in 1969, taking it down in 2019 and putting it up again in 2023 is quite a journey.
Said Worley: “This is full circle for me.”
“The best thing about it is the birds,” Worley said of the mural. “The sun setting into the ocean, reflecting into the clouds, and those birds flying down.”
Like the pleasures of the beach lifestyle, may “Pleasures Along the Beach” be eternal.
Double trouble is headed for Pomona: I will be emceeing concerts by the Pomona Concert Band on two successive Thursdays, Aug. 24 and 31. The free shows in Ganesha Park, 1575 N. White Ave., start at 7:30 p.m. As these are the final summer-series concerts, perhaps the band is building to a crescendo?
David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and (cymbal crash) Friday. Email email@example.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.