Calling It a ‘Stoner Art Museum,’ a Republican Assembly Candidate Decries Public Funding for Cheech Marin’s Chicano Art Center

But the comedian's museum has nothing to do with drugs.

Cheech Marin. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Art Los Angeles Contemporary.

A Republican candidate for California’s 60th Assembly District criticized the state’s $9.7 million funding of Cheech Marin’s Chicano Art Museum in Riverside by denigrating the project as a “stoner art museum,” even though the museum has nothing to do with drugs.

For more than three decades, the comedian has assembled one of the finest Chicano art collections in the world. Last month, the Riverside Art Museum received the multimillion-dollar package to establish a dedicated exhibition space to permanently showcase Marin’s collection.

Nevertheless, on June 29th, local Riverside political hopeful Bill Essayli asked on Twitter “$10 million for a stoner art museum? Is that really the best use of our tax dollars when Californians are struggling to survive in the least affordable state?

In a separate statement to local paper the Press Enterprise, the assembly candidate added: “Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin made millions starring in his Cheech and Chong comedy movies glorifying illicit drug use.” He also criticized his opponent, incumbent Democrat Sabrina Cervantes, for “handing [Marin] nearly $10 million of our tax money for a museum” while Californians struggle to make ends meet. “I join in celebrating Chicano culture,” he insisted. “However, I believe we must find ways to do so with private funding.”

But according to Cervantes’s campaign consultant Derek Humphrey, the Assemblywoman had nothing to do with the grant aside from voting to approve California Governor Jerry Brown’s $139 million budget bill for 2018–19. 

The grant was in fact supported by fellow Democrat and Riverside Assemblyman Jose Medina, whose spokesman Josh Pulliam vigorously defended the funding. “This Trump-ish tweet comes from a politician who’s either completely ignorant, overly divisive, or both,” he told the Riverside newspaper. “Why should the Bay Area or LA suck up all of the state’s resources for the arts?”

Meanwhile, executive director of the Riverside Art Museum Drew Oberjuerge said the quality of Marin’s collection is unrivaled, and that the comedian-turned-collector has lent works to major institutions all around America. “I Imagine it’s easy to dismiss something they haven’t seen or known, but the track record for the Cheech collection speaks for itself.”


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