An idol for generations of comedians, actors, and cannabis enthusiasts, Cheech Marin is truly a man who needs no introduction, but some may still be unaware that beyond his personal artistic pursuits he has long been a formidable collector of Chicano art, beginning shortly after his rise to fame in the 1970s. He reportedly owns some 700 pieces, including works by notable Chicano artists such as Gilbert “Magú” Lujan, Carlos Almaraz, and Frank Romero, and he likes to get those works in front of the public. A blockbuster exhibition of works from his collection, “Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge,” toured 12 cities from 2001 to 2007.
In 2017, the city of Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles, announced that it was drawing up preliminary plans to open a Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture, and Industry to showcase his collection. “The intimates call it the Cheech,” he told the Los Angeles Times, with a joking nod to Eli and Edythe L. Broad’s art venue, the Broad. In 2018, dreams of a private museum for his collection took a huge step toward becoming a reality. California approved a $9.7 million grant to renovate a former public library in Riverside. Marin and the Riverside Art Museum had previously raised $3 million on their own; estimates put the total cost of renovations between $5 million and $7 million. In 2020, the museum secured $750,000 from the Bank of America. “I have dreamed for many years of finding a home for the hundreds of pieces of art that I have spent much of my life collecting, protecting, and showing, when possible, at major museums around the world,” Marin said in a statement. “The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.” The Cheech is slated to open in 2021.