Banking on Memories: California History through the Home Savings and Loans Mosaics,

Adam Arenson, University of Texas at El Paso


For three decades, Millard Sheets and his studio artists created mosaics, murals, and sculptures for the Home Savings banks in California, often reflecting the Hispanic heritage of the region. This study recovers the place of this public art within local memory—and how the mosaics and the bank they represented fared through involvement in the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, sale to Washington Mutual in 1999, and seizure by the federal government in 2008. It advances contemporary urban history by chronicling a corporate investment in public memory, and how this interplay of community banking and public art fostered community in California’s notoriously spread-out suburbs.