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Chicano, an unprecedented art exhibit, will open to the public at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, Ind., on January 31, 2004. Chicano is a five-year, 15-city national tour that is collectively made up of Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, a traditional art exhibit, and Chicano Now: American Expressions, an interactive multimedia exhibit for families. Chicano first opened in November 2001 at the San Antonio Museum of Art and was most recently on view at the El Paso Museum of Art and Insights-El Paso Science Museum in El Paso, Texas. Chicano will remain on exhibit at the Indiana State Museum through May 5, 2004.
Chicano presents the diverse heritage of Chicano culture -- a political and social statement among many people of Mexican descent. "We're bringing our interpretation of the Chicano experience to the American public," says Cheech Marin "I want all Americans to understand that Chicano culture plays a big part in the patchwork quilt that is Americana. The contributions of Chicanos have been so enormous, but they tend to be overlooked."
Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge showcases a wide variety of Chicano visual art. Curated by Rene Yáñez, the exhibition features approximately 80 works by more than 26 artists, including Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Gronk, Patssi Valdez, George Yepes, Rupert García, Leo Limón, Margaret García and Eloy Torres. The works, which present images of urban life and the Chicano experience, date between 1969 and 2001. While the majority of the works are drawn from the personal art collection of Cheech Marin, some are on loan from other collectors and institutions. Chicano Visions will be displayed in the museum's third floor Wilbur E. and Florence Jeup Ford Gallery and the NiSource Inc. Gallery of Indiana Art.
Works by the following artists are included in the exhibit:
Chicano Now: American Expressions is an interactive multi-media exhibit that offers expressions of Chicano cultural style through the eyes of the nation's premiere Chicano and Chicana performing and independent film artists. Displayed in the museum's third floor changing exhibits gallery, Chicano Now aims to spotlight Chicano culture through the main themes of work, family, style and identity. Visitors to Chicano Now can select a song on the jukebox, try salsa dancing, get behind the wheel of a lowrider and learn more about the many contributions Chicanos have made to society.
The Chicano Movement
The key to understanding the Chicano experience today is to know that the heritage of people of Mexican ancestry in the United States stretches back thousands of years and includes European, Indian and African influences. For many, their ancestral roots on American soil predate the arrival of the Mayflower. The Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s not only sought social justice and equality for Mexican-Americans, but also sought to reclaim and educate people of their rich heritage. No single story or definition neatly depicts the Chicano experience, just as no one story can capture the heart and soul of any group in the United States. The Chicano experience is diverse, complex and dynamic.
It can be said that the Chicano Movement has been fomenting since the end of the U.S.- Mexican War in 1848, when the current U.S-Mexican border took form and hundreds of thousands of Mexicans became U.S. citizens overnight. Since that time, countless Chicanos and Chicanas have confronted discrimination, racism and exploitation. The Chicano Movement that took place in the 1960s drew inspiration from heroes and heroines from their indigenous, Mexican and American past.
Community leaders, scholars, activists, artists, educators and students ushered in the Movement. Leaders such as Reies López Tijerina, Corky González, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta gave the Movement national leaders and voices and called attention to the issues facing Chicanos.
Part of the Chicano initiative was to establish a variety of educational goals: reduction of school dropout rates; improvement of educational attainment; development of bilingual-bicultural programs; and expansion of higher education fellowships and support services. Still others include the development of Chicano centered curricula, the creation of courses and programs in Chicano studies and an increase in the number of Chicano teachers and administrators. Thousands of students also mobilized and formed student organizations geared towards education reform, activism and peer support.
A major element of the Movement was the evolution of Chicano art, which was fueled by heightened political activism and energized cultural pride. Chicano visual art, music, literature, dance, theater and other forms of expression have flourished. During the 20th century, an emergence of Chicano expression developed into a full-scale Chicano Art Movement. Chicanos developed a wealth of cultural expression through media as painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. Similarly, novels, poetry, short stories, essays and plays have flowed from the pens of contemporary Chicano writers. Chicano, Mexican-American and Hispanic cultural centers, theaters, film festivals, museums, galleries and numerous other arts and cultural organizations have also grown in number and impact since this time.
Much of Chicano artistic expression, however, has been excluded from mainstream museums and cultural institutions. That is one of the reasons why Chicanos have created so many of their own institutions. There has been continued development of Chicano arts but its validation has not come from mainstream art institutions. Only recently has Chicano and Latino art been exhibited in a small number of mainstream museums.
Chicanos have sustained a strong cultural presence in the Southwest-a presence that has had a major influence on our nation's music, art, language, food, fashion and lifestyle. One only has to visit Los Angeles, Tucson, Santa Fe, San Antonio, El Paso or Denver to witness this presence. Cheech Marin's collection of Chicano art and its national tour is helping audiences throughout the country understand and appreciate the richness of the Chicano culture.
Cheech Marin Biography
Best known as one half of the hilariously irreverent, satirical, counter-culture, no-holds-barred duo of 'Cheech and Chong,' Cheech Marin is a paradox in the world of entertainment. As an actor, director, writer, musician, art collector and humanitarian, he's a man who has enough talent, humor, and intelligence to do just about anything. As a multi-generational star -- or as Cheech jests, "People know me from the womb to the tomb," - he attracts fans through his comedy and films, as well as his projects for children. To this day, 'Cheech and Chong' films are the number one weekend video rentals.
This past year is finding a whole new audience through Cheech's Chicano art collection, which is one of the largest in the world. Cheech's vision of Chicano art and expression are being brought to life in a blockbuster museum exhibit duo, collectively entitled Chicano. Cheech's own personal Chicano art collection forms the core Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. In September, 2003, Bulfinch Press published a coffee table book featuring highlights of Cheech's art collection and exhibition.
This past summer (2003), Cheech co-starred in the Robert Rodriguez films Spy Kids 3 with Antonio Banderas, and in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, starring Johnny Depp, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Also in the works for Cheech is an addition to the well-known Cheech and Chong franchise (New Line), with the script being penned by the duo of Cheech and Tommy Chong. In the past, Cheech co-starred in Tin Cup where he played caddy and best buddy to Kevin Costner. Cheech co-starred in the Dream Works Pictures modern-day fable Paulie with Tony Shalhoub. He has also starred opposite Samuel Jackson, Jeff Goldblum and Damon Wayans in The Great White Hype and opposite George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino for Robert Rodriguez in From Dusk till Dawn as well as Rodriguez's Desperado alongside Antonio Banderas. In addition, Cheech co-starred with Don Johnson in the CBS one-hour drama television series Nash Bridges, currently in syndication.
Cheech was the recipient of the 2000 Creative Achievement Award from the Imagen Foundation. In addition, he received the 1999 National Council of La Raza/Kraft Foods ALMA Community Service Award for his work on behalf of the Latino community.
With his entry into the "kids set," Cheech's littlest fans only know him because of his work in children's music and animation. He became known to an international children's audience when he provided the voice of Banzai, one of the dastardly hyenas in The Lion King, as well as the streetwise Chihuahua in Disney's Oliver and Company. Cheech's voice was heard as Lencho the Flea on the CBS show, Santo Bugito.
Due to his phenomenal success of his first bilingual children's album, My Name is Cheech, the School Bus Driver, he will release a second record, My Name is Cheech, The School Bus Driver "Coast to Coast." According to Cheech, "The music speaks directly to kids in an intelligent way--they're fun, but educational." In fact, the record impressed the Los Angeles Unified School District so much that they are using one of his songs to teach kids about how to mix and use colors. The second album will feature a bus trip from Los Angeles to Miami, and through a combination of Latin rhythms, the music will address such issues as using rewards and lessons on how to get along.
Cheech was born in South Central Los Angeles and raised in Granada Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles. He has always loved music. "As a little kid, I was a singer and recorded albums. I was always in bands--you name it, I sang it -- R&B, jazz, funk, I did it all," he says. After attending California State University, Northridge, to study English, he left eight credits short of a degree to "pursue pottery and avoid the draft." Moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a political refugee, Cheech soon met Tommy Chong who owned a topless club. He worked there for nine months combining music and improvisational comedy. "It was great--you could call it modern day burlesque," he quips.
Eventually Cheech and Chong teamed up and moved back to Los Angeles. They performed their stand-up/music act at clubs all over L.A. until they were discovered at The Troubador by music industry magnate Lou Adler. "The rest," as Cheech says, "is history."
Cheech and Chong were a critically acclaimed duo for 15 years, but have worked separately for the past 10 years. They teamed together for eight feature films: the first, Up in Smoke, was the highest grossing comedy of 1978, topping $100 million at the box office. That followed with Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams, Things are Tough All Over, Cheech and Chong: Still Smoking and Cheech and Chong: The Corsican Brothers. They also made guest appearances on Yellowbeard and Martin Scorsese's After Hours.
After splitting with Chong, Cheech wrote, directed and starred in Universal's hit comedy, Born in East L.A. Other film and television credits include, Cisco Kid, Rude Awakening, Fatal Beauty and Shrimp on the Barbie.
As for the future, Cheech hopes to continue acting, writing and directing. He also desires to become more involved in animation projects. "I love animation because it is such a pure form of acting, created just by the voice," he says. When he is not working, Cheech devotes a great deal of time to such organizations as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, El Rescate and the Inner City Arts Council.
The best times for Cheech are those hanging out with his wife, a painter, and their three children. The family divides their time between homes in Los Angeles and Park City.
If all of the above is not enough for one person, Cheech also has a line of three gourmet hot sauces on the market that are in the words of Cheech 'Whatappenin!'
Editor's note: Readers may also enjoy:
Learner.org, a service of Annenberg/CPB, provides life long learning programs on the Web. Several videos in the Teacher Resources section focus on American art in the A World of Art: Work in Progress series. A World of Art is a video instructional series on art appreciation for college and high school classrooms and adult learners. Each program in this art appreciation series is devoted to a contemporary artist who takes one or more works of art from start to finish. Each show is 30 minutes in length.
Smithsonian TV is a central index of multimedia content and a multimedia hosting service of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Smithsonian TV is streaming this program on its web site:
Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Indiana State Museum in Resource Library.
Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.
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