Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Students, Faculty Learn About Chicano Art from Cheech Marin

KINGSVILLE - September 24, 2009

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361.593.4143


Some 45 art students from Texas A&M University-Kingsville were among a select group learning about Chicano art from comedy star Cheech Marin.

Marin may seem a strange teacher to those that don’t know what his passion is outside the entertainment industry—he is among the largest collectors of Chicano art in the world.

That passion was evident September 16, with the opening of the exhibit “Menudo: Chicano Art from the Cheech Marin Collection” at the Art Museum of South Texas, an organization affiliated with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

A&M-Kingsville students joined students from other area colleges and universities for a special presentation that day led by Marin, as he offered insight into the pieces making up the exhibition. 

“I’d like the students to have an emotional experience with the art,” said Marin. “I’d like it to inspire them and help them realize that they too can be a part of the art on the walls some day.”

“Kingsville, San Antonio, Austin, Los Angeles—these places have been integrally involved in the Chicano art movement. The themes of the art work have come in large part from the people in these places.”

Among the A&M-Kingsville students in attendance was graduate student Rosalinda Salinas, who no doubt would have pleased Marin with her feelings about the collection. “Being a Latina woman today, seeing the exhibit is empowering.

“I feel you don’t have to be Hispanic to be a Chicano artist. If you grew up around it or you really embrace the culture in your art, then to me you’re a Chicano artist.”

One of the artists featured in the exhibit was Benito Huerta. He said of celebrity collector Marin, “What is great about Cheech is that he shares the work with the public, unlike other collectors who never let anyone see their art.”

The students were accompanied by Dr. George Vargas, assistant professor of art. Vargas helped coordinate getting the exhibit to South Texas along with faculty from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and staff from the Art Museum of South Texas. He also noted the support he received in his efforts from the A&M-Kingsville art department and its College of Arts of Sciences.

Vargas met Marin in 2007, when Vargas presented a paper at the Pintores de Aztalan exhibition in Madrid, and feels the actor has made a tremendous impact with his collection. “Cheech Marin’s contributions to contemporary American art are immeasurable, as art history will eventually describe his outstanding work.

“Critically speaking, he has validated Chicano/Chicana art by his strong presence in the arts as a leading collector.”

Vargas earned his B.F.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan, where he studied Chicano art from the Midwest. He cited Texas A&M-Kingsville as being a center of the early Chicano art movement. He has been documenting the Chicano art works of South Texas, the Midwest, the West Coast and beyond in a contemporary Chicano art book to be released for sales and distribution in December.

“I feel I was sent to Texas A&M-Kingsville to document the important work that is going on. Chicano art is a phenomenon unique to the United States. It’s an American expression.”

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