When most people think of Cheech Marin, they think of Up in Smoke or any of his other classic stoner comedies. They probably don’t think about fine art, but Marin is actually quite the collector. He’s been at it since he first achieved fame in the 70s and boasts one of the foremost collections of Chicano art in the world. He’s also become one of the principal champions of the genre. While he is Chicano, he’s said that his fascination with Chicano, or Mexican-American, works started primarily because he enjoyed it and felt it was underrepresented in the art world.
That won’t be the case much longer, it seems, as the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry of the Riverside Art Museum (RAM), a permanent home for Marin’s collection of over 700 pieces of rare and valuable Chicano art, just received $9.7 million of funding from California, reports ArtNet News. The idea for the center came from Marin’s extremely successful traveling exhibition of Chicano art, which drew audiences across the country.
“Cheech Marin has developed the finest private collection of Chicano art in the United States,” reads the center’s website. “Much of it formed the core of his blockbuster exhibition, Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, which broke attendance records during its groundbreaking 12-city tour during 2001—2007 to major art museums across the U.S.”
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Marin and the RAM, his partners on the project, had already raised $3 million for the center. Now fully funded, the “Cheech,” as Marin dubbed it, should be open in 2020. The money will go toward renovating the 60,000-square-foot space, once a public library. The costs of renovation are estimated to be from $5 million to $7 million.
“For too long, the story of Latinos and their contributions to the arts have been overlooked,” Riverside Assemblymember Jose Medina told ArtNet. “The Cheech will help bring the real stories and rich history of the Latino community to all Californians.”
“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 press release. “The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”
The Cheech will feature work from such renowned Chicano artists as Frank Romero and Gilbert “Magu” Luján, among many others.