The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture has officially secured $1 million in annual funding from the city of Riverside, California, and will soon showcase 74-year-old comedian and noted marijuana enthusiast Cheech Marin’s vast repository of Chicano art.
Marin, whose 700-plus-piece collection of Mexican-American art is estimated to be the largest in the world, has been pitching the city of Riverside on converting the 1964 Riverside Public Library building into a museum since at least 2017. On January 19, the Riverside City Council voted 4-0 to approve the conversion and to provide $1 million a year for the museum’s continued operation. The library (Riverside’s main branch) will relocate and the Riverside Art Museum will foot the bill for the $10.7 million conversion of the former building into “The Cheech,” and has agreed to manage the center for 25 years.
The 61,420-square-foot building’s transformation from library to art center will be handled by a team headed by Page & Turnbull and wHY, two firms with ample historic preservation and museum experience between them. In a press release announcing The Cheech’s approval, the joint modernization and expansion of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, the first collaboration between the two firms, was touted as a successful model and precedent for realizing this project. From the renderings released, it looks like the team has gone with an intentionally spare (but warmly colored) gallery feel across the center, with an exposed concrete coffered ceiling and holes cut in the second-floor slab to create a greater sense of verticality. The building’s aging roof and HVAC system will also be replaced.
As The Press-Enterprise reported in its breakdown of The Cheech’s finances, the city is expected to funnel approximately $10 million to the art center in its first decade, while reaping $3 million back as part of an expected cut of ticket sales in that same period.
Marin, for his part, has already given 11 pieces of his collection to the Riverside Art Museum for display, and plans on donating 500 more once a storage facility for the art center is complete. Construction of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture is expected to begin soon, and the center is on track to open sometime later this year. Hamel Contracting of Murietta, California, has been hired to oversee the conversion.