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Cheech giving speech at the opening of The Cheech Center in California

Courtesy of Riverside Art Museum

Cheech Marin Opens California Art Museum

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

June 23, 2022

Weed icon Cheech Marin has a new home for his extensive collection of Chicano art with the recent opening of a new museum in California. Known as The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, the new space opened on June 18 in Riverside, California featuring nearly 500

, drawings and sculptures donated by the famous pot-friendly actor and comedian.

“The art is the collection that I amassed over 40 or 50 years, touring it around the country,” Marin said in a statement from the museum. “This is a homecoming. This is an enshrinement in a permanent collection. Different aspects of the collection have been exhibited in over 50 museums.”

Courtesy of Riverside Art Museum

Nicknamed The Cheech, the new museum houses what is believed to be the world’s largest permanent collection of Mexican American art. María Esther Fernández, artistic director of The Cheech, said that she is unaware of another museum that has a permanent collection of Chicano art on exhibition. With Mexican American art largely ignored by most mainstream museums and the art world at-large, The Cheech offers a unique opportunity to provide an educational experience to patrons.

“Chicano art to me… it speaks to a people, their American experience, and has really grown to adopt visual markers from other movements,”

USA Today. “But it’s developed its own kind of visual language. And what’s needed because of the marginalization in the art world is more art history and more scholarly research so that we can unpack this.”

The Cheech is a $14.5 Million Collaboration

The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture is a $14.5 million public-private partnership between the Riverside Art Museum (RAM), the City of Riverside, and Marin, whose work was part of a traveling exhibition at RAM in 2017. When city officials and RAM invited Marin to give his collection a permanent home at a modernist building that was formerly the city library, he was tempted by the offer. But he wasn’t sure if he was ready to make a permanent donation of the art he had collected over decades. He was convinced, however, when he asked how large the building is. The answer was 61,420 square feet.

“And I said, 420 square feet? That’s a sign,”

in an interview with NPR. “That’s a sign. Thank you, Lord.”

Courtesy of Riverside Art Museum

Artists featured at The Cheech include the late Carlos Almaraz, who was a leading member of the Chicano Art Movement in Los Angeles in the 1970s and ’80s, producing banners for rallies in support of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers labor union. Works by Judithe Hernández, who was among the first Chicana artists to break through the mainstream museum barrier, are also included in the collection.

“The Arrest of the Paleteros” by Frank Romero – Courtesy of Riverside Art Museum

“Chicano art was always political art,” Marin said. “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 museum and its educational programs explore essential questions found in Mexican American art, including the differences between people who identify as Chicano and those who prefer the term Latino.

Einar and Jamex de la Torre, “La Belle Epoch”, 2002 (Courtesy of Einar and Jamex de la Torre and Koplin Del Rio Gallery)

“What we’re doing is weaving tales, curatorially, about the collection,”

the Hollywood Reporter before the opening of the museum. “We’re looking at the works together and individually, how they’re in conversation thematically, politically, artistically, conceptually, visually, art-historically.”

Zach Horowitz, the former chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group and the founder of the Latino podcast company Pitaya, is also an avid collector of Chicano art and is a board member of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. He believes The Cheech is a fitting tribute to Chicano art and one of its most prolific collectors.

“I’ve always been impressed by Cheech’s passion for an art form that’s had to fight for recognition,” he said. “No one has done more to champion it on a national and international level. He’s worked tirelessly over decades to make sure it’s seen and given the proper context.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

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