The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside officially opened to the public Saturday, which Marin described as a "happy and humbling'' occasion, expressing optimism that the 500-plus works that he's collected over four decades and provided for display will spark interest among those who see them.
“My motto has always been that you can't love or hate Chicano art unless you see it,” Marin said during a preview of the center Thursday. “And now people will have a place to always see it.”
Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson awarded Marin with a ceremonial key to the city and joined him in unveiling a commemorative plaque acknowledging the uniqueness of the paintings, drawings, sculptures and other creations that he's turned over to the center, located at the site of the former Main Library, at Mission Inn Avenue and Orange Street.
The venue opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, and tickets for first-day tours sold out, according to the Riverside Art Museum.
“The Cheech,” which was initiated under a public-private partnership in 2017, is destined to serve as a repository for Marin's entire collection of Chicano-related works, which the museum will curate and release for traveling exhibitions nationwide.
Last week, the museum announced it had partnered with the Smithsonian to showcase the exhibit “Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective,” by Einar and Jamex de la Torre. It boasts 70 mixed-media works, among which are blown-glass sculptures and lenticulars with moving imagery.
One of the components is a 26-foot lenticular composition offering a large-scale representation of an Aztec earth goddess. The depiction includes low-rider cars and a background map of windmills and solar panels.
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“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,” the mayor said. “I encourage everyone to visit our historic downtown and see for themselves the majesty of The Cheech.”
Works from a range of Latino artists are on display, including renderings by Carlos Almaraz, Margaret Garcia, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Judithe Hernández, Frank Romero and Patssi Valdez.
Under a memorandum of understanding approved in 2020, the city agreed to pay the Riverside Art Museum $800,000 annually in management fees and to cover all utility costs, estimated at $120,000 per year, for the center.
The agreement has a 25-year term, by the end of which the center is expected to be self-sustaining, officials said.
Although private entities have been involved in funding the development, the lion's share of financial support has come from the state, which allocated $10.7 million for the 61,420-square-foot cultural stopover.
Before renovation work began, the Main Library was relocated a few blocks to the north, near the Fox Performing Arts Center, where it has been in operation since June 2021.
Officials estimate up to 100,000 people may visit The Cheech annually.
The 75-year-old Marin became famous in the 1970s as half of the bong-smoking Cheech & Chong comedy duo. He has spent about 40 years amassing his creative treasure.
“We've put so much work into this center, and I can't believe it's finally here. This is such a happy and humbling moment for me,” Marin said. “I'm so excited to share my passion with the rest of the world. There's something in here for everyone.”