Pillar of Public Art
From the Santa Barbara News-Press
Chadbourne Mills, former director of the Santa Barbara Museum
of Art, died of lung cancer on Friday (9/17/04) surrounded by
friends and family. He was 79.
three decades Mr. Mills was a powerful force in the public arts
scene, ranging from spearheading a project to line the breakwater
and Stearns Wharf with flags to raising money for the rainbow
sculpture, Chromatic Gate, near Fess Parker's Doubletree
Mills was a champion of many local causes, serving on the boards
of the Santa Barbara Flag Project, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum,
Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Contemporary Arts
Forum, Prime Timers and Gay Santa Barbara.
daughter Katie Mills, of Los Angeles, said he "is probably the
busiest person ever to die."
Mills was born Sept. 24, 1924, in Seattle. After high school,
he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Alaska as part of the
communication corps. From 1945 to 1948 he attended Reed College
in Oregon and for the next three years worked as a reporter with
the Bellevue American in Washington state. In 1953 he earned a
bachelor's degree in art history from the University of Washington.
Mills' lifelong career in the arts began with a part-time job
at the university's Henry Gallery, where he served as assistant
curator for a year beginning in 1952. He went on to the fledgling
Oakland Museum, starting as art curator before being named director,
a post he held until 1970.
1955, he married a friend from high school, Jan Dowd.
Mills was active in the Bay Area Figurative Movement and the Pop
gave Richard Diebenkorn his first show," said his daughter, "and
wrote notably about painter David Park, who was the focus in his
1961 (master's) thesis in art history from UC Berkeley." That
work -- known as the only firsthand book on the artist -- was
published in 1988 as "The New Figurative Art of David Park."
the 1960s, he and his wife were also active in Oakland's civil
rights movement, and Mr. Mills helped his wife open a collection
of stores and restaurants in Oakland, the Bret Harte Boardwalk,
They also worked for passage of bonds for a new building for the
Oakland Museum of California, Katie Mills said.
couple moved to Santa Barbara in 1970 when Mr. Mills took over
as director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Soon after, he
was drawn to flag design -- and he later designed the Santa Barbara
County flag, which hangs in the county Courthouse arch.
In a 2001 News-Press interview, Mr. Mills said, "Flags are a combination
of modern design and history. Heraldry I find interesting."
1977, Mr. Mills started the Santa Barbara Flag Project, 36 colorful
flags that line the breakwater, each representing a community
organization. The project also encompasses the Cedric Boeske Memorial,
a dozen historic flags of California on Stearns Wharf.
his wife died in 1999, Mr. Mills came out as a gay man, his daughter
said. He served as vice president of Gay Santa Barbara and organized
Pride art shows. His daughter said he also joined Trinity Church
and "actively explored his beliefs and religion."
also joined Santa Barbara Prime Timers, of which he served as
Mills "remained vibrant, loving and clear-minded up until the
very end of his busy life," said his daughter. "Many never guessed
the extent of his illness because he remained so active and committed
to his causes."
addition to his daughter Katie, Mr. Mills is survived by a daughter,
Megan Kitchen of Santa Barbara, a son, Mike Mills of Los Angeles,
and two granddaughters.
memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday (9/25/04)
at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, then move to the Courthouse,
where friends and family will gather under the Mills flag.
lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Paul
Mills Archives of California Art at the Oakland Museum.