The Museum of Avant-garde

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

Sheila is a graphic designer, artist, and educator whose work embodies feminist principles and emphasizes user participation in design. In 1990, she became the director of the Yale University Graduate Program in Graphic Design, making history as the first woman to receive tenure at the Yale University School of Art. Named the Caroline M. Street Professor of Graphic Design in 2010, she is also a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrants who fled anti-semitism in the 1920s, Sheila's journey in design began under Leon Friend's mentorship, shaping her views on modern graphic design and designers' social responsibility. She earned her MFA in graphic design from Yale University in 1964 and has since received Honorary Doctorates from institutions like CalArts, Moore College of Art, and California College of the Arts.

Moving to Los Angeles in 1970, Sheila became the first woman faculty member in the design department. In 1971, she established the inaugural design program for women at CalArts and co-founded the Woman's Building, a hub for women's education and culture. Founding the Women's Graphic Center and co-founding the Feminist Studio Workshop further solidified her commitment to communal art forms.

Throughout her career, Sheila's interest in public art has flourished. Notable works include an 82-foot concrete wall in downtown Los Angeles commemorating Biddy Mason, a former slave turned midwife. Her contributions to the field have earned her numerous accolades, including a "Grandmaster" award from the New York Art Directors Club in 2009, several awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, including a ”Design Legend Gold Medal” for 2004 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art in 2016.