Inside Cheech Marin's vast collection of Chicano art

Cheech Marin to open Chicano museum

While Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong's stoner comedy was decidedly silly, their financial success allowed Marin to pursue a serious passion: collecting Chicano art. Some 30 years after he bought his first painting, Marin is about to have his own museum -- the first in the country to focus solely on Mexican-American art and culture.

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Richard "Cheech" Marin CBS News

Marin's collection, considered the finest in private hands in the country, will soon have a permanent home in Riverside, California. The Los Angeles suburb, with a population that's more than 50 percent Latino, offered to convert one of its building into the Cheech Marin Museum of Chicano Art, Culture and Industry, reports "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Anthony Mason.   

"As soon as I kind of realized what they were talking about, I was -- wow, really?" Marin said. 

His collection contains some 700 pieces and is constantly expanding.

"Chicano art is not a way of painting, like say, the impressionists. It's more of a flavor. You get the sabor of this community, how it smells, how it tastes, how it feels when you touch it," Marin said. 

Everywhere you look in his Pacific Palisades home, there's another expression of the Chicano art movement by Mexican-American artists like Carlos Almaraz. 

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One of the Chicano art pieces inside Cheech Marin's home CBS News

"Carlos Almaraz is the John Coltrane of American contemporary painters.  I'm of the opinion that paintings are alive," Marin said. "And they're imbued with the creative spirit of the artist. And every time you walk by them, it affects you physically and you're changed by it."

Most people know Richard "Cheech" Marin, of course, from the cannabis-infused comedy team Cheech and Chong.

"We were extremely sophisticated under guise of being these dummies," Marin said, laughing.  

Their success brought Cheech financial rewards, so he invested in his passion: art.

Cheech has more than 50 works by a painter and printmaker who goes by the name "Gronk." 

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Some of the Chicano art pieces inside Cheech Marin's home   CBS News

"He was like the first Chicano abstract artist," he said of Gronk. "My mantra has been that you can't love or hate Chicano art unless you see it."

Marin plans to take an active role in the management of his museum, but the city of Riverside still needs to raise $3 million to convert the building.

"We can accomplish this because everyone wants to be a part of it. Cool!" he said. 

Alongside Marin's vast art collection, the new museum plans a permanent exhibit celebrating his career and legacy. The actor and comedian continues to tour with Tommy Chong, but now is looking forward to sharing his artistic spirit.

"The museum in Riverside, 'The Cheech' as we call it, is going to be world famous."