An influential and rare permanent space dedicated to prolific Chicano art and culture –possibly the nation’s first and largest permanent collection of Mexican American Art, museum officials say – opened Saturday in Riverside, California.
The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, or ‘The Cheech’ as it’s called, houses nearly 500 paintings, drawings, and sculptures donated from comedian, actor and art collector Cheech Marin, one half of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong.
The inaugural exhibition, Cheech Collects, weaves a story of Marin’s journey as an art collector and features around 100 works.
“My heart is swelling at this point, man. This is a dream that I never dared dream, having a museum dedicated to Chicano art. It’s the very first one in the world,” Marin told NPR.
Artistic Director María Esther Fernández told USA TODAY she can’t recall another institution that has a permanent collection of Chicano art on view, although it’s difficult to be certain that The Cheech is the only permanent space or largest collection.
Fernández attributes this to the fact that Chicano art has been mostly ignored by the art world, in history departments and mainstream museums. A mission of the center is to help fill in some of the informational gaps, Fernández said.
“Chicano art to me … it speaks to a people, their American experience, and has really grown to adopt visual markers from other movements,” Fernández said.