María Esther Fernández to lead The Cheech starting August 2021

The Cheech opens to the public on Sunday, May 8, 2022

Maria Esther Fernandez

María Esther Fernández, the new Artistic Director of The Cheech. Photo credit: Charlie Pizarro

Riverside, CA (July 13, 2021)—The Riverside Art Museum (RAM) announces the selection of María Esther Fernández to serve as Artistic Director of its Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, its top leadership position at The Cheech. The museum is also pleased to announce the official public opening date for The Cheech as Sunday, May 8, 2022.

As the inaugural Artistic Director of The Cheech, Fernández will lead the curatorial vision and programming direction for the national center starting August 2021. “Esther brings a wealth of experience and expertise in Chicano art history that aligns well with The Cheech,” states Cheech Marin. “I look forward to supporting her in this integral leadership role as Artistic Director, which will shape our strategic curatorial and programmatic vision for years to come.”

“I am honored to join the Riverside Art Museum staff who have worked tirelessly with the City of Riverside, the RAM board, and Cheech Marin to make this historic center a realization,” states Fernández. “I look forward to cultivating fruitful collaborations with my colleagues at the museum and the broader community to work towards a more inclusive and complex understanding of Chicana/o/x art and culture. There is important work to be done at The Cheech to advance new scholarship, and exhibition and community programming, while continuing to build the collection through purposeful acquisitions to expand the narrative of Chicana/o/x art and address the historical gaps within American art.”

“On behalf of the entire Riverside Art Museum Board of Trustees and staff,” states Drew Oberjuerge, Executive Director of the Riverside Art Museum, “we are so thrilled that María Esther Fernández will be joining us to lift The Cheech off the ground. We look forward to supporting her and learning from her as she brings tremendous knowledge and experience to the project.”

While details of opening activities are still being finalized, RAM asks the community to save the date for The Cheech’s public opening on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Festivities leading up to the public opening include a fundraising gala presented by UNIDOS on Friday, May 6, 2022, at the Riverside Convention & Visitors Center. To keep abreast of plans underway for The Cheech, sign up for email updates at and follow @TheCheechCenter on social media.




About María Esther Fernández: María Esther Fernández was born in Chicago, IL, and raised in Inglewood, CA. She is the daughter of Graciela and Francisco who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Formerly the Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, CA, Fernández has curated numerous group and solo exhibitions, including Xicana:Spiritual Reflections/Reflexiónes Espirituales and Consuelo Jimenez Underwood: Welcome to Flower-Landia. In 2019, she co-curated Xicanx Futurity with Carlos Jackson and Dr. Susy Zepeda at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis. Fernández is working on a major retrospective about the work of Amalia Mesa Bains with Dr. Laura E. Pérez for the spring of 2023 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. She was a recipient of the Standing Committee on Education American Association of Museum’s Multicultural Fellowship and the Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program Fellowship, as well as a member of Silicon Valley’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Initiative. In 2018, Fernández received a California Arts Council grant to advance her research on curatorial practices and their impact on representation and access for the Chicanx community in contemporary art museums. She received her B.A. in Chicana/o and Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

About the Riverside Art Museum: RAM integrates art into the lives of people in a way that engages, inspires, and builds community by providing high quality exhibits and art education programs that instill a lifelong love of the arts. RAM relies on the generosity of members and donors to support its exhibitions, education programs, and special events. A 60-plus-year-old, non-profit cultural arts institution, RAM is housed in a National Historic 1929 building designed by Hearst Castle and AIA Gold Medal-winning architect Julia Morgan. For information on hours, exhibits, events, classes, memberships, ways to donate, and more, visit Find RAM on Facebook (, Twitter (@RAMRiverside), and Instagram (@riversideartmuseum).

RAM manages The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, set to open on May 8, 2022. A public-private partnership between RAM, the City of Riverside, and comedian Cheech Marin—one of the world’s foremost collectors of Chicano art—The Cheech will be the “center of Chicano art, not only for painting, but for sculpture, photography, and video arts.” The 61,420-square-foot center will house hundreds of paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by artists including Patssi Valdez, Sandy Rodriguez, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, and Gilbert “Magú” Luján. For information about The Cheech, visit Find The Cheech on Facebook (, Twitter (@thecheechcenter), and Instagram (@thecheechcenter).

About Cheech Marin: Cheech Marin is recognized today as a preeminent Chicano art advocate. In the mid-1980s, he began developing what is now arguably the finest private collection of Chicano art. In addition to artwork loans to numerous institutions, this notable collection has been featured in over a dozen exhibitions produced and shown at more than 50 museums in the U.S. and Europe to date, including the Smithsonian, LACMA, and the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Comprised of mostly paintings, followed by drawings, prints, and mixed-media artworks, then sculptures and photography, his collection (which currently numbers approximately 700 pieces) will serve as the core of The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum. A long-term goal of The Cheech is to supplement and expand the collection with Chicano artists, media, and subject matter not currently included through acquisitions and donations from artists and their estates, art collectors and dealers, and institutions. To learn more, visit

About the City of Riverside: As the City of Arts & Innovation, Riverside, California is rich in history and culture, and is setting the pace in innovative practices for government, business, and education. With a population of just over 330,000, Riverside is the largest city in the Inland Southern California region, the 12th largest city in California, and the 6th largest in Southern California. Riverside is home to four internationally recognized universities and colleges that support a growing college student population of nearly 50,000. Businesses and residents in Riverside benefit from City-owned electrical and water systems, high-speed fiber optic telecommunications, an easily accessed freeway system, BNSF and UP rail access, and a large corporate jet and general aviation airport. With standards of excellence in technology, workforce development, arts, innovation, education, and social capital, the City of Riverside has been named America’s #6 Digital City (Center for Digital Government 2020); #1 City in Government Experience (Center for Digital Government 2019); #8 Metro Area for Retaining College Grads (City Lab 2017), and named in the top 25 suburbs where Millennials are moving (Time 2017). To learn more, visit

About UNIDOS: Founded in December 2017, UNIDOS is a collective of community-focused organizations and engaged individuals in the Inland Empire of California dedicated to serving the diverse spectrum of the Chicano-Latino community. To date, UNIDOS has raised approximately $400,000 for The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum through pledges, events such as galas and concerts, contributions, ticket sales, sponsorships, and more. To learn more, visit