Cheech Marin’s Chicano art museum is not going up in smoke, apparently. On Wednesday, the comedian’s longtime dream took a big step toward becoming a reality, as the state of California approved a $9.7 million grant for the new museum, which will live in Riverside, east of Los Angeles. The windfall significantly boosts the project’s resources, more than tripling the $3 million already raised by Marin and his partner, the Riverside Art Museum.
Most of the cash will pay for the renovation of the museum’s 60,000 square-foot-building. Based on a city survey conducted last May, the former public library earmarked to house the museum will cost between $5 million and $7 million to transform into an exhibition space. The budget includes a new roof, a new HVAC system, and upgrading the elevators.
Riverside Assembly member Jose Medina, who proposed and pushed for the funding from the state legislature, said the museum finally gives Latinos a platform to showcase their art and culture. “For too long, the story of Latinos and their contributions to the arts have been overlooked,” he explained. “The Cheech will help bring the real stories and rich history of the Latino community to all Californians.”
Marin started collecting Chicano art shortly after he rose to fame with his frequent collaborator Tommy Chong in the ’70s and ’80s. Over the course of more than 30 years, Marin amassed a significant collection of over 700 paintings, drawings, and other works. His collection includes highlights by artists such as Gilbert “Magú” Lujan, Frank Romero, and Carlos Almaraz.
After spending decades advocating for Chicano artists, the 71-year-old teamed up with the Riverside Art Museum last year to push for a dedicated exhibition space to showcase the under-appreciated genre.
“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,” Marin said in a statement. “The Riverside community has made this dream a reality.”
The museum is scheduled to open doors in 2020.