The center, nicknamed The Cheech, is a perfect adaptive reuse of this mid-century building and the historic and vintage aspects will be preserved in its transformation from a library to a museum and cultural center.
Nationally recognized architect and historic preservation expert Page & Turnbull and premier museum designer WHY have revealed further details of their concept for the new space.
The guiding principles of the design were developed through a series of community outreach workshops, which engaged a diverse cross-section of stakeholders from the city, including artists, educators, activists, business owners, and local residents. Additional programming featured a pop-up presentation as part of the Riverside Artswalk back in February 2018, which invited passersby to comment on the project and learn about its prospective impact on the city.
The sessions were a chance for stakeholders to articulate their hopes about what The Cheech could be, as well as discuss key concerns and ensure that the design allowed for uninhibited expression of Chicano culture. It was clear that community members did not want another art world “white box”—instead, the site will create an environment infused with sabor, or flavor, and present a space of radical hospitality, color, and vitality.
The site in its entirety will convey the spirit of The Cheech, with outdoor spaces encouraging art programming, impromptu performances, and experiences of all types—from lowriders, to quinceañeras, to outdoor sculpture.
The semi-circular entry steps draw the visitor towards the building, and the open “front porch” podium will feature large-scale sculptures to be rotated according to new programming and exhibitions. The building’s entry lobby is envisaged as a zócalo or open town square, a central gathering space that will connect the four main galleries and offer amenities such as a gift shop and, eventually, a cafe.
One of the most striking features of the space will be the visual connection to the upper galleries, highlighted by the installation of a newly commissioned work of lenticular art by brothers Einar and Jamex De La Torre. The monumentality and dynamism of the installation will generate a central source of energy for The Cheech, encouraging visitors to explore the different galleries. Accessed by a restored mid-century stairway, the second floor will feature exhibition and community art galleries, a multi-purpose video space, staff offices, and artist-in-residency studios where visitors can witness the next generation of Chicano art as it emerges.