New museum honors Chicano art, culture

An influential and rare permanent space dedicated to prolific Chicano art and culture — possibly the country’s first and largest permanent collection of Mexican-American art, museum officials say — opened Saturday in Riverside, California.

The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, or ‘The Cheech’ as ​​it is called, is home to nearly 500 paintings, drawings and sculptures donated by comedian, actor and art collector Cheech Marin, one half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong .

The inaugural exhibition, Cheech Collects, weaves a story of Marin’s journey as an art collector and showcases approximately 100 works.

“My heart is swelling right now, man. This is a dream I could never have dreamed of, with a museum dedicated to Chicano art. It’s the very first in the world,” Marin told NPR.

Executive Director Drew Oberjuerge speaks at the Civic Dedication of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture at the Riverside Art Museum, June 16, 2022. Artwork by brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre extends 8 meters from the ground floor to the balcony on the second floor.
Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Critical Mass.  Critical Mass is an allegory depicting the devil freeing Jesus from the cross with an Aztec sacrifice, the cathedral's twin towers going down and a cheeky monkey telling the story.

Artistic director María Esther Fernández told USA TODAY she can’t remember any other institution with a permanent collection of Chicano art, though it’s hard to be sure The Cheech is the only permanent space or largest collection.

Fernández attributes this to the fact that Chicano art has been largely ignored by the art world, in history departments and mainstream museums. A mission of the center is to help fill some of the informational gaps, Fernández said.

Einar and Jamex de la Torre's 2020 "femininity," a testament to feminine upbringing and intrinsic strength.

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

“But it’s developed its own kind of imagery. And what’s needed because of the marginalization in the art world is more art history and more scientific research so we can unpack this.”

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