“The Cheech”: Discovering Chicano Art

Sofia Jones
 | March 13, 2024

Welcome to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, a collaborative effort between the Riverside Arts Museum, the City of Riverside, and iconic comedian Cheech Marin. Situated in Riverside’s downtown historic core, the center, lovingly referred to as “The Cheech,” stands as a beacon of creativity and community in Riverside, California. It’s a one-of-a-kind museum, nestled within the historic core of Riverside, celebrating all of Chicano art. And “The Cheech” is a first.

What is “The Cheech”?

“The Cheech,” which opened its doors in 2022, houses an extraordinary collection of nearly 500 paintings, drawings, and sculptures. It’s all generously donated by the legendary comedian, actor, and art aficionado, Cheech Marin. And it’s the first time so many pieces of a Chicano art collection have been celebrated in an American museum.

Students and faculty from local colleges and universities are invited to delve into the largest private collection of Chicano art. Here, they explore themes of identity, social justice, and cultural heritage.

“Chicano art to me … it speaks to a people, their American experience, and has really grown to adopt visual markers from other movements,” Artistic Director María Esther Fernández told 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.”

Meet Cheech Marin: A Passionate Advocate

Marin, renowned as one half of the iconic comedy duo Cheech and Chong, transcends the stage and screen, and more. His love for Chicano art led him to curate this remarkable collection.

“My heart is swelling at this point, man. This is a dream that I never dared dream, having a museum dedicated to Chicano art. It’s the very first one in the world, and you should be very proud,” Marin told NPR.

Marin first introduced his private collection to the nation during a national art tour, which included stops in Washington, D.C. in 2002. By then, he had been a fan of Chicano art for decades.

“By the time I discovered Chicano painters in the mid-’80s, I recognized that these guys were really world-class painters, but they weren’t getting any attention, which was good in one sense in that I could get their work for cheaper! ” he told Smithsonian Magazine. “And then bad in another sense in that nobody knew who they were. That was my biggest concern, that here was a school of world class painters, and they were not getting any shelf space.”

And he’s been displaying it and singing its praises until the establishment of his own museum, aka “The Cheech.”

Today, his vision for The Cheech extends beyond Riverside. He aims to share Chicano art with the world. “We have something wonderful to give,” he says about the art on display.

A significant portion of this collection will always be on display and can be toured at venues across the nation and throughout the world.

Visiting The Cheech

  • Location: The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture is located at 3581 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA, 92501—right at the corner of Mission Inn Ave. and Orange St.
  • Hours of Operation: Wednesday to Sunday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Parking: Metered street and lot parking are available along Mission Inn Ave. During downtown events, such as the Festival of Lights and Dia de los Muertos, street closures may affect parking. Be sure to check the event calendar.
  • Online Exploration: Dive deeper into Chicano art by visiting the museum’s official website: The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture. Here, you’ll find virtual tours, artist profiles, and educational resources.

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Featured image: “Homage a Chespiritu” by Freddy Agurto Parra.
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