10 things to know about Cheech Marin’s museum, opening June 18 – San Bernardino Sun

When the The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture opens in Riverside, it will turn what was once a public library building into a tourist destination.

The Cheech, as it is popularly known, calls itself “one of the nation’s first permanent spaces dedicated to showcasing Chicano art and culture.” It backs that claim with the fame of Cheech Marin, a famous comedian and movie star since the 1970s who has also become known as an advocate for Chicano art.

His collection now has a home in the Inland Empire.

Opening day for The Cheech is Saturday, June 18. Tickets are sold out, but are available for following days, according to the museum.

Here are some things to know about The Cheech before visiting.

Why it’s in Riverside

City officials reached out to Marin in 2017 when his pieces from his collection were being exhibited at the Riverside Art Museum.

Riverside, which calls itself the City of Arts and Innovation, had for several years supported projects to advance museums and theaters as a way to boost tourism.

“Why Riverside? Because it’s going to be the next big arts town,” Marin said in a 2018 interview.

The city entered into a 25-year contract with Riverside Art Museum to run The Cheech.

The neighborhood

The Cheech is in downtown Riverside, a few blocks from several government buildings and courthouses. It is near several other museums.

It occupies nearly a full block on Mission Inn Avenue, a two-lane street with herring bone parking. Many of the buildings around it date from the 1920s or earlier.

The building

The Cheech took over the Riverside Central Library, which left the 61,240-square-foot building in March 2021 to move into a new building a few blocks west.

The Cheech is in a midcentury modern building designed by a local architectural firm, Moise, Harbach & Hewlett, that dates from 1964.

In a 2009 report, the city described it as a “good and rare example of New Formalism,” a style that took its inspiration from Greek architecture but added some modern features.

Among them are eight 17-ton diamond-patterned screens made of concrete that adorn the building’s smooth brick facade. The pattern includes abstract doves to evoke a sense of peace in the Cold War era, according to the Riverside Historical Society.

In 1967, the library won an award for creative use of concrete.

The building is set back from the street with a shaded lawn in front of it.

The church

The Universal Unitarian Church of Riverside is on the southeast corner of the block occupied by The Cheech. A plaque over the door says it was built in 1891 from Arizona sandstone “in Norman Gothic style.”

The city tried to buy the church in order to demolish it in the 1960s. Now it designates the building as a landmark.

The Chinese Pavilion

A Chinese pavilion was built on the southwest corner on the block to honor Chinese settlers from the late 19th and early 20th century, according to Asian American Riverside.

Near the pavilion is a titanium sundial donated to the city by Imre Kalincsak, a Riverside clockmaker who was born in Hungary.

Inside the museum

The interior of the library was gutted after it was vacated, and workers have spent more than a year transforming it into a museum while preserving some of its 1960s features.

The space has a high ceiling, and a 26-foot work by Jamex and Einar de la Torre that stretches to the second-floor balcony will be the first thing visitors see when they enter. It depicts an Aztec goddess.

The ground floor will included dedicated space for Marin’s art collection.

The second floor will have galleries for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, classrooms, and an office.

A gift store will sell such items poetry and children’s books, vinyl records and jewelry, as well as Cheech merch, including 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 historical resort on the next block, has eight restaurants and bars alone.

The artwork

Marin, 75, has amassed more than 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” Luján; and Patssi Valdez, painter, performer and conceptual artist.

Opening exhibitions are “Cheech Collects,” about pieces from his collection, and “Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective.”

Opening day

Although the museum is sold out for Saturday, June 18, there will be a free street fair 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on Mission Inn Avenue with local artisans, food vendors and live entertainment. Pachuco Jose y Los Diamantes will headline at 5:30 p.m.

Mission Inn Avenue will be closed for two blocks between Orange and Lime streets on that day, and there will be police patrolling traffic.


Admission is timed at The Cheech, and tickets are sold online in three time blocks on most days: 10 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; 12:15-2 p.m.; 2-4:45 p.m. Tickets are sold on the museum’s website, which tells how many tickets are available in each block.

Admission to The Cheech includes the nearby Riverside Art Museum.

Maximum capacity is 600 people.


The Cheech has a wraparound parking lot, but it filled 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 spots are numbered, and the city has meter kiosks on most blocks. Pay options include cash, credit cards, Apple and Google Pay.

Check posted signs for time limits.

City parking garages and lots offer 90 minutes of free parking. After that it costs $1 per half hour with an $8 maximum.

Information: riversideca.gov/parking/downtown-parking

The Cheech

Where: 3581 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside; the Riverside Art Museum is at 3425 Mission Inn Ave.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. The museum will remain open until 8 p.m. on select Thursdays and close on Tuesdays in August.

Admission: $15.95; $10.95 for 65 and older and ages 13-17; children under 12 and military personnel, free.

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