Where The Cheech is Matters
The Cheech, Riverside
Written by Sydney Walters
Much has been and will continue to be written about the latest gem in Southern California. The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, or ‘The Cheech,’ opened its doors to the public on June 18th. The renovated building, once a public library, showcases Marin’s flourishing art collection. Nearly 500 paintings, sculptures and installations profess a story of Marin’s forty-plus year history as a collector while highlighting Chicano landmarks.
Researchers and art historians will trek to the new museum to study this robust collection of Mexican American Art. Locals and even LA residents will combat traffic to experience dynamic works by artists such as Frank Romero, Vincent Valdez and Candelario Aguilar, Jr. Families will take advantage of educational classes that teach art history as well as painting, sculpting, digital illustration and others. The art and art experience is the impetus for visiting The Cheech. Yet notions of place emerge as a distinctly unique consideration for this museum.
Let us first survey the place where The Cheech broke ground. To do that, it is helpful to go back in time to understand why The Cheech is so significant for this particular area. Riverside is home to one of the oldest Latino communities in California. This community was built by entrepreneurs, migrant workers, immigrants, business owners, civil right leaders and families. How Riverside looks today can be primarily credited to the agriculture industries, education systems and home economics created by the historic and modern Latino community. Contrary to what you may assume to be a benevolent gift from Cheech Marin to his hometown, Marin was actually born in South Los Angeles in 1946.
But Marin is keenly aware and decisive about the locational impact The Cheech will bear on the community. Besides its central location to the town square, the building is near five universities making it a prime research opportunity. Upon entering The Cheech, Marin invites you to visually experience the history of Mexican Americans in the United States. The inside of the museum directly reflects the outside of the museum and that is not always the case. Museums can be preservation boxes once or twice removed from the unfolding stories in the world. For The Cheech, that is far from the case. Depictions of the Zoot Suit riots, religious tyranny, erasure of culture, and a prevailing celebration of culture ripples within the space.
Visitors should know that there are plenty of benches in the downstairs gallery and a conveniently located elevator to bring visitors to the second floor. Paintings are also hung a few inches lower than museum standards to give visual access to a wider range of people.
Temporary exhibit Collidoscope by Einar & Jamex de la Torre is running until January 22, 2023
Tickets must be purchased in advance at http://riversideartmuseum.org
Be sure to read COVID protocols before arriving.
3581 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501