Signal Hill, Long Beach. Oil fields and homes. Detail from a postcard circa 1926. Image from Digital Collections, Loyola Marymount University Library.


In conjunction with the exhibition Petrochemical America: Project Room at Pomona College Museum of Art, Pomona College will host PetroLA on October 10 & 11, featuring a distinguished panel of historians, scientists, and policy advocates who will examine some of the ramifications of the oil industry on the region—past, present, and future.

The event begins Friday, October 10 at 7 p.m. with the screening of How to Look at a Southern California Sunset, a student documentary on regional air pollution, produced by Travis Wilkerson of the Pomona Media Guild.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m., the PetroLA symposium presents:

  • “‘Sacrificed on the Altar of Oil:’ Los Angeles’ Uneasy Relationship with Petroleum,” Nancy Quam-Wickham, professor of history, CSU Long Beach
  • Black Tides of Change: The Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 1969 and its Consequences, Roderick Frazier Nash, America’s foremost wilderness historian, author of books including The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics, and professor emeritus of Environmental Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara
  • Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley, Kate Orff, SCAPE founding principle and associate professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University;
  • Air Quality, Greenhouse Gases, and Energy in South Coast Basin, Aaron Katzenstein, climate and energy program supervisor, South Coast Air Quality Management District
  • Fracking in Southern California: Protecting Our Communities From Risky Oil Development, Damon Nagami, senior attorney and director of the National Resources Defense Council Southern California Ecosystems Project
  • Convener: Char Miller, W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College and the author 10 books including Public Lands, Public Debates: A Century of Controversy and On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest.

PetroLA is held in collaboration with the Pomona College Museum of Art’s presentation of the traveling exhibition Petrochemical America: Project Room on view from September 2 to December 19, 2014. The Pomona College Museum of Art is located at 330 N. College Avenue, Claremont, CA, and is open to the public free of charge Tuesday through Sunday, from 12-5 p.m. and Thursday evenings from 5-11 p.m. For more information, call (909) 621-8283 or visit

PetroLA is sponsored by: the Pomona College’s Mellon Foundation-Elemental Arts Initiative, the Pomona College Environmental Analysis Program, the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, and the Pomona College Museum of Art. The museum’s presentation of Petrochemical America: Project Room has been made possible, in part, with support from Lee Walls, Jr. and the Turner Foundation and in part from the Elemental Arts Initiative at Pomona College, a four-year arts-based academic initiative supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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