Cheech And Chong Might Be Over But Cheech Marin Is Saving Chicano Art With An Exciting Art Exhibit
Cheech Marin is one of the most successful comedic voices to come out of the Mexican-American community in the United States. As part of the comedic duo Cheech & Chong, he has toured the nation offering acts full of caustic humor and political references that get our heads thinking and our hearts racing. He was born Richard Anthony Marin on July 13, 1946, in South Los Angeles. He has lived and worked in California his whole life and has appeared in such iconic films as Machete, and TV shows like the classic Nash Bridges. He has also done voice work in children’s classics such as The Lion King (where he voices one of the despicable hyena) and Pixar’s Cars trilogy. Culturally, Marin identifies as a Chicano, even though he does not speak Spanish. Guess where his nickname comes from? The story goes that when he came back from the hospital his uncle said that he looked like a chicharron (pork crackling), so the apodo of Cheech stuck.
But he is much more than an actor and comedian, and he has made a very important contribution to Chicano cultural life. Read on to find out more about it.
He is a famous actor, but his true love is not acting.
Cheech has been collecting Chicano art for years, something that his fame and fortune has allowed him to do. It is believed that he possesses the largest individual collection of Chicano art in the world.
He found his love for art at church, of all places.
Cheech told The Orange County Register that he first fell in love with art as a kid when at 11 he would stare at the ceiling at church. He said: “There were all these paintings there, guys in togas and some of them getting barbecued. What’s the deal? So art was very important to me and I learned as much as I could about it by going to the library to check out the art books.” Gracias a Dios!
As a generous collector, guess what he decided to do.
Yes, you guessed it, he decided to donate his entire collection to a museum. The lucky institution? The Riverside Art Museum (http://www.riversideartmuseum.org/) in 3425 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California.
The new Chicano art center: simply The Cheech.
The museum and Marin decided to call the new center simply The Cheech, which both speaks of the main benefactor’s generosity towards the arts and Mexican-American identity, and to an iconic symbol of Chicano culture.
But of course, money is needed for this project.
So Cheech and the museum relied on what Latino’s do best: community organizing. Through both online and offline fundraising he got the attention he needed and the rest, as they say, is history.
It has taken him four decades to amass his great collection of Chicano art, after all.
Cheech told the Las Vegas Sun on August 2018: “It’s more than I could ever ask for. I’ve been putting together this collection of Chicano art going on 40 years, and it’s been touring close to 30 years visiting various museums across the nation and Europe. It’s kind of a unique thing because it’s a private collection and museums don’t like to show those for a lot of reasons. It’s like, I have this collection because you don’t “. Talk about perseverance! If you truly love something, then nothing will be able to stop you!
His motto: “Chicano art is American art.”
Cheech is a proud American, and he considers, and rightfully so, that Mexican-American communities have contributed immensely to the social and cultural fabric of the United States. He didn’t want his art collection to be just his, but everyones. He toured with the collection but not he found a permanent home for it. He told the Las Vegas Sun: “When you’re sifting through those materials, you come to the realization of what good does it do you? What am I going to do, stuff it under the bed? It’s for the people to see where previously they have not had that chance. It’s going to a special place that can expand the outreach of Chicano art and better include it the American canon. Chicano art is American art.” Preach, carnalito!
His passion got young people interested in art that speaks to our cultural roots.
The only way for culture to survive throughout the years is to be communicated to the next generations. During his fundraising efforts, Cheech found an echo in young adults. As reported by The Orange Country Register in December 2018, the group known as The Pick Group of Young Professionals organized the Pick 100 x 100 campaign, which urged 100 young professionals to give $100 each by October 2019 for a total of $10,000. The group’s president, Lauren Lee, said in a press release: “Imagine the difference we can make in our community by deciding to give back as young professionals to a community that has given so much to us.”
He got the State of California to donate $9.7 million for the museum.
In June 2018, after Cheech had already raised $3 million dollars for the museum, the state government pitched in an extra $9.7, which came from the 2018-2019 budget signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Cheech told the Associated Press shortly after the government funds were made available: “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. The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”
The museum will have over 700 paintings.
The depth and breadth of Cheech’s collection encompass both established and upcoming talent, as well as painters who are great but haven’t been able to break into the highly elitist art circles of Los Angeles. Among the paintings, drawings and sculptures are works by such artists as Gilbert (Magu) Lujan, Frank Romero, and Carlos Almaraz.
The Cheech Center will revitalize Riverside.
Besides being culturally important, the arts center will draw attention to Riverside. Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey said in 2018: “But there is also a business side to the equation. A world-class art museum draws visitors to our city, potentially from all around the globe. These visitors book hotel rooms, pay bed tax, eat in our local restaurants and frequent our coffee shops and nightspots. The arts are one of the drivers that make Riverside a good place to do business”. Dinerito habla!
By the way, Cheech Marin is also a marijuana advocate.
Yes, his other passion is pot: he is an active promoter of the legalization of marihuana, and of course is good friends with other pothead celebrities such as Snoop Dog! Un toquecito para Cheech! And yes, he has entered the legal pot growing business.