Cheech Marin Museum at Riverside opens to cheers and cultural celebration – Orange County Register

With the arrival of a shiny blue lowrider and the cheers of the crowd, “The Cheech” opened in downtown Riverside.

After five years of planning and fundraising, comedian and actor Cheech Marin’s Chicano Art Museum welcomed its first guests on Saturday morning, June 18, with a street celebration to announce a venue that is expected to put the city on the national arts card.

Around 10 a.m., Marin — wearing an orange cap with the museum logo — jumped out of a 1962 Chevy Impala lowrider and unlocked the doors to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture with Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson.

  • Visitors enter the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on opening day, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A celebration marked the opening of the Cheech Marin Center...

    A celebration marked the opening of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Comedian and actor Cheech Marin arrived in a lowrider car...

    Comedian and actor Cheech Marin arrived in a lowrider on Saturday, June 18, 2022 to open the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Cheech Marin, on the left wearing an orange cap, arrives in a...

    Cheech Marin, left wearing an orange cap, arrives in a lowrider Saturday, June 18, 2022 for the opening of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside. (Photo by Fielding Buck, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The first group of visitors enter the Cheech Marin Center...

    The first batch of visitors enter the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on opening day, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • The first group of visitors enter the Cheech Marin Center...

    The first batch of visitors enter the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on opening day, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Visitors to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art &...

    Visitors to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on Saturday, June 18, 2022, include Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson, middle left, and Riverside City Councilwoman Erin Edwards, to her right. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Early visitors appreciate the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano...

    Early visitors enjoy the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside on opening day, Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Comedian and actor Cheech Marin waves to the crowd on Saturday,...

    Comedian and actor Cheech Marin waves to the crowd Saturday, June 18, 2022, as he arrives for the opening of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Opening day was sold out, but those with tickets—and others—had a lot to say about the cultural significance of the museum.

“We have so many Hispanic communities in Riverside, and this will bring them together,” said Maria Batres of Riverside Ballet Folklorico, whose troupe performed a blessing outside the museum before Cheech entered.

Lock Dawson joined a group of museum staff who cheered on the first visitors as they entered the museum in the city’s former main library.

They included JoAnn Jimenez, whose group was on the front line.

“It’s amazing, where do I start? she says, standing in front of a 26-foot-tall lenticular that extends to the ceiling, the first work of art visitors see. The untitled work was made by brothers Einar and Jamex de La Torre.

The museum dubbed The Cheech was established to house Cheech Marin’s vast collection of Chicano art. He started building it in the 1980s after finding fame with Tommy Chong in the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, followed by a film career. The center now houses around 550 paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works from Marin’s collection. Located next to the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, the new museum is expected to attract 100,000 visitors a year.

He described Chicano art as stemming from the protests of the 1960s and evolving over the decades to depict how real people live their lives. He called it a mix of Mexican art, world art, and pop culture.

Marin began to be known as an art connoisseur over the past 20 years when he began sending his collection to major museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The concept of a museum in Riverside began in 2017, when his collection was on display at the Riverside Art Museum, and then then-City Manager John Russo and other city leaders pitched the idea to Marin. After that, planning and fundraising began.

“Someone asked me how it feels to end now,” said Ofelia Valdez-Yeager, a Riverside resident, community leader and chair of the Reach for the Cheech campaign, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Thursday, June 16. “I feel like I’ve been pregnant for five years.”

The Cheech was born out of a $14.5 million public-private collaboration with major donors such as Bank of America and Altura Credit Union, as well as a city ​​subsidy of nearly $1 million per year at the Riverside Art Museum, which has been hired to manage it.

The Cheech is housed in the former Riverside Main Library, a 1964 building that retains its mid-century modern exterior but has been renovated inside.

Now, instead of a checkout at the entrance, visitors see the de la Torre brothers’ giant lenticular, which includes several themes of Chicano art. Images include an Aztec goddess, native California flowers, a map of East Los Angeles and the face of Cheech Marin himself.

The creators of The Cheech see it as a platform to spread the influence of Chicano art across the world.

“We hope this building, this collection and this community involvement will be a beacon for all others across the country to finally redefine inclusion,” Marin said at the ceremony. “Now it’s going to be embodied in a place where they can come.”

Marin said he brought all of his kids to Riverside to see the museum.

“They are really impressed with this, as I am impressed with this: to have an entire building dedicated to promoting a part of the culture that was completely neglected for a long time but is now represented.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of anything I’ve done in my career or in life.”

ABOUT CHEECH

What: Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture

Where: 3581 Mission Inn Ave, Riverside.

When: It opened on Saturday June 18 and was sold out for the first day. Reservations are timed and must be made in advance on the museum’s website.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The museum will remain open until 8 p.m. on select Thursdays and will be closed on Tuesdays in August.

Admission: $15.95; $10.95 for 65+ and 13 to 17 year olds; children under 12 and soldiers, free.

Information: 951-684-7111 or https://riversideartmuseum.org/visit/the-cheech-marin-center-for-chicano-art-culture/

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