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Cheech Marin speaks on a panel at Day 2 of WonderCon 2022 in Anaheim, California. Photo: Daniel Knighton/FilmMagic
Cheech Marin speaks on a panel at Day 2 of WonderCon 2022 in Anaheim, California. Photo: Daniel Knighton/FilmMagic

Cheech Marin’s Chicano art and culture center opens as ‘The Cheech’ in California

About 500 of the items on display at the museum come from Marin’s own collection.

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Cheech Marin, the beloved Mexican-American comedian, is opening the Center for Chicano Art & Culture, in collaboration with the Riverside Art Museum.

The term Chicano refers to Mexicans living in the U.S. It’s derived from the concept that Mexicans living in the states were no longer truly Mexicanos, because they gave up their country to live in Houston, L.A., or another city. 

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Marin, along with his partner Tommy Chong, became household names through their stand-up routines, studio recordings, and films that all centered around the hippie era, counterculture movements, and their mutual love for marijuana. 

The new Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, nicknamed The Cheech, opened on Saturday, June 18. It is located in the former downtown public library building in Riverside, California. 

For $15.95, California residents and visitors can access The Cheech and the Riverside Art Museum. 

The Cheech features photos, sculptures, paintings, and drawings from A-list artists of the Chicano art movement, such as Frank Romero, Judithe Hernández, and Patssi Valdez. 

“This school of American art is incredibly important in its longevity and its reach, from coast to coast. It’s as important as the Hudson River Valley or Ash Can or anything else. It just hasn’t had its moment of glory yet,” Marin said in 2017 when he was first approached about creating the center. 

Marin has already gifted about 500 items from his more than 700-piece collection to the institution, located in a majority-Latino city. The new home of the Chicano art center underwent a $13.3 million renovation, which was mainly funded by the state. 

On Saturday, June 11, The Cheech Center’s Instagram page posted a teaser video, highlighting their opening night ceremonies, which included a lineup of performances, and a cameo from Marin himself. 

“My motto has always been that you can’t love or hate Chicano art unless you see it. And now people will have a place to always see it,” Marin told Hey SoCal, during a preview of the center last week. 

In January 2021, Riverside City Council committed $1 million dollars to see the center come into fruition. The council, which has seven members, voted 4-0 to enter into a 25-year contract with the museum to run the center.

Yet, not all of the members were as enthusiastic about the plans, according to a report by The Press-Enterprise

Despite this, it is estimated that the new art center will bring in $3 million in revenue each year for the community. 

Just last week, The Cheech announced a Smithsonian partnership to display Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective, by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, featuring 70 multi-media pieces.  

Patricia Lock Dawson, Mayor of Riverside, honored Marin with a ceremonial key to the city, and applauded the opening of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture. 

“The Cheech not only will give visitors another reason to visit Riverside, but also serve as an epicenter for us to connect with each another, celebrate our diversity and creativity and provide space for education and reflection,” Dawson told NBC News

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