At the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley and surrounded by the Sequoia and Los Padres National Forests, lies the vast plain of Kern County and Bakersfield. An inhospitable area for centuries, in the mid-1880’s Kern County became home to pioneers looking for gold and oil in the banks of the Kern River. In the 20’s and 30’s Dust Bowl migrants of German and Scandinavian descent, settled in to work on the oil fields. The harsh living conditions of the area, coupled with the realities of the Great Depression, created the perfect ingredients for a cultural identity to start emerge. By the early 50’s, edgy troubadours such as Buck Owens chartered a rugged down to earth sound played in honky-tonk bars across the area free of the excess and slickness of Nashville counterparts. This rugged sense of independence created what is now known as the Bakersfield Sound and influenced a new generation of California singers and songwriters such as Emmy Lou Harris, Gram Parsons and many others.

By the 1980’s, the harsh desolate dust-bowl image associated with the area had vanished: Kern county had become the largest oil producer in the country and fourth agricultural producer in the nation. This economic boom has given way to a new wave of migrants from the south, mainly from Mexico and Central America. With them comes a new sense of place, culture and community but also a shared pioneered spirit that has kept Kern’s rugged independent cultural spirit alive.
Land Speeding at El Mirage: Mojave Playa Interventions P.3
Land Speeding at El Mirage: Mojave Playa Interventions P.3
Since the 1920s, gearheads and hot rodders have flocked to the flat alkali playas of the western Mojave Desert, setting land speed records that continue to be pushed today.
High & Dry: Through a Window Darkly
High & Dry: Through a Window Darkly
High & Dry explores what a window -- as seen through the lens of a camera -- can relate to a viewer about memory and time.
Reyner Banham Loves the Mojave
Reyner Banham Loves the Mojave
British architectural historian/critic Reyner Banham had a thing about deserts --specifically those of the American Southwest and, in particular, the Mojave Desert.
William 'Burro' Schmidt and His Tunnel to Nowhere
William 'Burro' Schmidt and His Tunnel to Nowhere
High & Dry explores prospector William "Burro" Schmidt's half-mile long tunnel in Last Chance Canyon in the Mojave Desert. Schmidt spent thirty-two years single-handedly drilling his tunnel through solid granite.
Paradise Lost: The Portal in California City
Paradise Lost: The Portal in California City
German artist Dennis Rudolph erected The Portal -- a gateway to Heaven or Hell -- in California City, the lost paradise of Los Angeles' future.
< Prev 1 Next >
section header: disciplines
icon, Architecture/ Design discipline

Architecture/ Design

California becomes an international export by redefining the concept of city and home.

icon, Community Arts discipline

Community Arts

Through workshops, education and placed based projects, art is the connective tissue of a community.

icon, Cultural Politics discipline

Cultural Politics

Funding bubbles, cultural deserts and the politics of access to the arts in the 21st century.

icon, Film & Media Arts discipline

Film & Media Arts

At the shadow of the entertainment industry, video artists and underground filmmakers take a stand.

icon, Literature discipline


Noir, sunshine and dystopia create a multi-ethnic narrative that is read, watched and admired around the globe.

icon, Multi-Disciplinary discipline


Multi-hyphenate works that combine disciplines, remix dogmas, and reinvent the wheel.

icon, Music discipline


A dialogue between cultures, the music of our state serves up the California dream like no other artform.

icon, Performance discipline


Staging the drama of California through dance, music and theater.

icon, Visual Arts discipline

Visual Arts

Breaking away from the European and New York vanguard, California reinvents the art world.

Featured • More Columnists
Loading Columnists...