This June, a new creative hub has opened in Southern California. The Riverside Art Museum in the Inland Empire debuted The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture. This $11 million addition is named after East LA-born actor, comedian, and art collector, Cheech Marin, who generously donated his collection of 550 paintings, sculptures, and other artworks to the museum. As a result, The Cheech is now regarded as the largest permanent collection of Mexican American Art in the U.S.
After finding success in comedy, Marin pursued his other great passion—collecting art. The 75-year-old spent over 40 years finding his favorite pieces, slowly putting together an eclectic collection. “The term Chicano is in flux,” Marin says. “We live in flux times. And we want to talk about that at the Center because it will be a place for exploration and innovation of art and culture. I want this to be a place where these things get discussed and I want the experience to be inclusive.”
The Riverside Art Museum renovated its 1960s library in the historic downtown into The Cheech, which will feature a rotating display of Marin's collection. For its opening exhibition, entitled Cheech Collects, the main gallery features paintings from more than 40 different artists, including Patssi Valdez, Frank Romero, and Judith Hernández. “Being a Chicano has always meant being in the middle—being an American but also being proud of your roots,” he continues. “Everybody is different, and we all have to learn to get along. Being a Chicano means forging your own path.”
While many of the artists are based in California, Marin traveled across the U.S. to find masterpieces that spoke to him. Prior to donating his art to The Cheech, Marin displayed his collection in over 50 museums, hoping to bring attention to art and artists that have been overlooked. “Chicano art was always political art,” Marin adds. “And year by year, it evolved into what it is today. It can be political. It can be non-political. It can be highly personal. But what I've learned over the years is that Chicano art reveals the sabor (flavor) of the community.”
The exhibition Cheech Collects will be on display until December 2022. You can visit The Cheech at the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California.