PASADENA - A classic 1963 mural of the first Rose Parade painted by famed Claremont artist Millard Sheets is coming home.

More than two years after it was taken down from the former Home Savings lobby on Colorado Boulevard in a Chase Bank corporate makeover, the entire 50-foot mural is expected to be installed in the lobby of Pasadena City College's Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium this summer.

"It's been restored, and it looks fantastic," said Tony Sheets, Millard Sheets' son, himself a noted artist.

"What we agreed to is I'm gifting it to the city of Pasadena so that ultimately they have control of its whereabouts," he said.

"As it stands right now, it's on a 25-year loan to PCC.

The 1963 mural of the first Rose Parade that famed artist Millard Sheets painted for Home Savings has been restored and will be installed at Pasadena City
The 1963 mural of the first Rose Parade that famed artist Millard Sheets painted for Home Savings has been restored and will be installed at Pasadena City College's Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. (Courtesy photo)
They have a terrific lobby in the gym building ... and it's going to he very visible - and in one piece."

The donation's value is being "worked on" by appraisers, Sheets said.

Sheets, who runs the nonprofit Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex in Pomona, said his main concern had been finding a place in Pasadena where the mural could be installed in a single sweep. Anything else was a "deal-breaker," he said.

That's what derailed an earlier proposal to install the colorful mural at the Pasadena Convention Center, Sheets said: the mural would have had to be "broken up in pieces" to accommodate doors, among other problems, he said.

Joe Futtner, PCC's interim dean of visual arts and media studies, said the mural is a great addition to the campus.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity that's being much celebrated by the college," Futtner said Wednesday, adding that the new setting will allow the mural's full scale to be appreciated. "When you see photos of the former installation at Home Savings you see it's not shown to particular advantage broken up," he said.

Bobbi Abram, executive director of the PCC Foundation, said some details are still to be worked out, but she called the gymnasium lobby, with the nearby Wall of Champions and Hall of Fame, a "beautiful spot" for the installation.

Patrick Conyers, chairman of the city's Arts and Culture Commission, said that earlier this month the members agreed to allocate $6,500 from the Cultural Trust Fund for the Tournament of Roses Millard Sheets Mural Restoration Project.

"I think it will be great," Conyers said of adding the mural to PCC's public art collection. "It will be very visible. That space, to my knowledge, is open to the public and gets lots of foot traffic."

Rochelle Branch, the city cultural affairs manager, spearheaded efforts to preserve the mural when it seemed under threat in 2009.

"Certainly in the last bank installation only a portion was visible to the public," she said.

"And the advantage of having the artist's son oversee the restoration is that he's able to consider the artist's intent and is very familiar with his father's work. We're so pleased and grateful to Mr. Sheets that he recognized this is a treasure for Pasadena."

Millard Sheets, born in Pomona, was a painter and muralist whose works are throughout Southern California, including a number of the then-Home Savings branches. He died in 1989.

His son removed and reinstalled his father's Pasadena mural in the 1980s, when the original Home Savings building was torn down and rebuilt. He got involved with Chase in working to save the Pasadena mural after discovering one of his father's large murals had been painted over during remodeling of a Chase branch in the Bay Area in 2009.

Bank officials there had "no idea" that murals in California are protected by law and that they were liable for a replacement, he said at the time.

A similar issue involves the preservation of a Sheets' mural in the now-Chase bank in Pomona downtown.

Sheets said the restoration has given new life to the Rose Parade mural, which is painted on 15 specially made walnut veneer panels. Some of the background had to be re-stained, he said, and the color had faded in places.

"When you see it now, it pales to the other one - literally. It turned out beautifully," Sheets said Wednesday from his Oregon home, where much of the restoration was done. "It's back at the Fairplex being stored, and it's ready to go."

janette.williams@sgvn.com

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