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 Chicanx art, making his first acquisitions sometime in the 1980s. He 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 and Culture that would become the permanent home for the actor’s 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, those dreams got a huge boast of confidence when the State of California gave the Riverside Art Museum a $9.7 million grant, as part of the state budget, to renovate a former public library in Riverside, which would become the future site of the Cheech. In 2021, the Cheech announced the hiring of María Esther Fernández as its artistic director, with a new opening date of May 8, 2022.
“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 at the time of the Cheech’s announcement. “The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”