The Cheech
An architect’s rendering of the completed museum in downtown Riverside. Courtesy of the museum

The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture in downtown Riverside will open to the public next week, featuring nearly 500 works of art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and other creations amassed by actor Cheech Marin over four decades.

After more than a year of renovation and expansion, the building that formerly housed the Main Library at Mission Inn Avenue and Orange Street has been converted to the new center, which is part of the Riverside Art Museum.

An official grand opening ceremony is slated for 11 a.m. Saturday, June 18, at 3581 Mission Inn Ave.

“The Cheech,” which was initiated under a public-private partnership in 2017, is destined to serve as a repository for Marin’s collection of Chicano-related works, which the museum will curate and release for traveling exhibitions nationwide.

Earlier this week, officials announced that it had partnered with the Smithsonian to showcase the exhibit, “Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro- Perspective,” by Einar and Jamex de la Torre. The exhibit boasts 70 mixed- media works, among which are blown-glass sculptures and lenticulars with moving imagery.

One of the components is a 26-foot lenticular composition offering a large-scale representation of an Aztec earth goddess. The depiction includes low-rider cars and a background map of windmills and solar panels.

After a seven-month stay at “The Cheech,” the exhibit in January will go on a nationwide tour, officials said.

“The title of the exhibition mirrors the artists’ use of wordplay, alluding to the kaleidoscope-like quality of their works and the collision of imagery, themes and references that comprise their artistic language,” guest curator Selene Preciado said.

Works from a range of Latino artists will be on display at the center, including renderings by Carlos Almaraz, Margaret Garcia, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Judithe Hernández, Frank Romero and Patssi Valdez.

Under a memorandum of understanding approved in 2020, the city agreed to pay the Riverside Art Museum $800,000 annually in management fees and to cover all utility costs, estimated at $120,000 per year, for the center. The agreement has a 25-year term, by the end of which the center is expected to be self-sustaining, officials said.

Although private entities have been involved in funding the development, the lion’s share of financial support has come from the state, which allocated $10.7 million for the cultural stopover.

City Councilman Jim Perry said last year that he anticipates the center will be “an economic driver for Riverside.”

Officials estimate up to 100,000 people may visit the location annually.

The 75-year-old Marin became famous in the 1970s as half of the bong- smoking Cheech & Chong comedy duo. He has spent about 40 years amassing his creative treasure, according to the museum.

In addition to art exhibitions, other culturally oriented celebrations are planned at the center.

Before renovation work began, the library was relocated a few blocks to the north, near the Fox Performing Arts Center, where it has been in operation since June 2021.