When The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture opens in Riverside, it will transform a public library building into a tourist destination.
Chech, as it is popularly known, describes itself as “one of the first permanent places in the country dedicated to showcasing Chicano art and culture”. It supports that claim with the fame of Cheech Marin, the famous comedian and film star from the 1970s, also known as an advocate of Chicano art.
His collection now has a home in the Inland Empire.
The opening day for The Cheech is Saturday, June 18. Tickets have sold out, but are available for the following days, according to the museum.
There are a few things to know about The Cheech before going here.
why is it in riverside
City officials arrived in Marin in 2017, when his pieces from his collection were on display at the Riverside Art Museum.
Riverside, which calls itself the City of Arts and Innovation, had supported projects for many years to advance museums and theaters as a way of promoting tourism.
“Why by the river? Because this is going to be the next big arts city,” Marin said in a 2018 interview.
The city signed a 25-year contract with the Riverside Art Museum to run The Cheech.
Cheech is on the riverside of the city, a few blocks away from many government buildings and courtyards. It is near to many other museums.
It occupies about a full block on Mission Inn Avenue, a two-lane street with herring bone parking. Many of the buildings around it date back to 1920 or earlier.
Cheech took over Riverside Central Library, leaving the 61,240-square-foot building to move to a new building a few blocks west, in March 2021.
The Cheech is in a mid-century modern building designed by a local architectural firm, Moises, Harbach & Hewlett, that dates from 1964.
In a 2009 report, the city described it as “a fine and rare example of New Formalism”, a style that took its inspiration from Greek architecture but added some modern features.
Eight of them are screens made of 17-ton diamond-patterned concrete that adorn the building’s smooth brick façade. According to the Riverside Historical Society, the pattern includes abstract doves designed to evoke a sense of calm in the Cold War era.
In 1967, the library won an award for its creative use of concrete.
The front of the building is set back from the street with a shaded lawn.
The Universal Unitarian Church of Riverside is on the southeast corner of the block occupied by The Cheech. A plaque on the door says it was built “in the Norman Gothic style” from Arizona sandstone in 1891.
The city tried to buy the church to demolish it in the 1960s. It now designates the building as a landmark.
According to Asian American Riverside, a Chinese pavilion was built on the southwest corner of the block to honor Chinese settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Near the pavilion is a titanium solarium donated to the city by the Hungarian-born riverside watch maker Imre Kalinsk.
inside the museum
The interior was destroyed after the library was emptied, and workers have spent more than a year converting it into a museum, preserving some of its 1960s features.
The space has a high ceiling, and the 26-foot work by Jémex and Einar de la Torre that extends to the second-floor balcony will be the first thing visitors see when they enter. It depicts an Aztec goddess.
The ground floor will include a dedicated space for Marin’s art collection.
The second floor will house galleries, an auditorium, classrooms and an office for temporary exhibitions.
A gift shop will sell items such as Cheech Merchant, including poetry and children’s books, vinyl records and jewelry, as well as T-shirts and baseball caps.
There is no cafeteria, but there are several restaurants nearby, ranging from pizza by the slice to fine dining. The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a historic resort on the next block, alone has eight restaurants and bars.
Marin, 75, has collected over 700 works by artists such as the late painter Carlos Almaraz, a pioneer in the Chicano art movement; Margaret Garcia, known for her murals; sculptor and painter Gilbert “Magu” Lujan; and Patsy Valdez, painter, artist and conceptual artist.
The inaugural exhibition is “Citch Collects”, about pieces from his collection, and “Koleidoscope: De la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective.”
Although the museum is sold out for Saturday, June 18, there will be a free street fair on Mission Inn Avenue from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with local artisans, food vendors, and live entertainment. Pacchuco Jose y Los Diamantes will headline at 5:30 pm
Mission Inn Avenue would be closed that day for two blocks between Orange and Lime Streets, and police would patrol traffic.
The Cheech has an admission time, and tickets are sold online in three time blocks on most days: 10am to 12:15am; 12:15-2 PM; Tickets are sold at 2-4:45 on the museum’s website, which shows how many tickets are available in each block.
Admission to The Cheech includes the nearby Riverside Art Museum.
Maximum capacity is 600 people.
Cheech has a wraparound parking lot, but it filled up quickly when the building was a library.
The museum recommends street parking, which is plentiful in downtown Riverside but usually not free until 5 p.m.
Parking lots are numbered, and there are metered kiosks on most city blocks. Payment options include cash, credit card, Apple and Google Pay.
Check posted signs for time limits.
City Parking Garages and Lots provide 90 minutes of free parking. After that it costs $1 per half hour with a maximum of $8.
Where: 3581 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside; The Riverside Art Museum is at 3425 Mission Inn Ave.
hours: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The museum will be open until 8 p.m. on select Thursdays and closed on Tuesdays in August.
enter: $15.95; $10.95 for ages 65 and over and ages 13-17; Children and military personnel under 12, free of charge.