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Actor Cheech Marin brings artful side to Arizona conference

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By Anita Mabante Leach

Cheech Marin is known for the funny, quirky characters he plays on the big screen, but he is serious when it comes to supporting the arts.

The actor will speak at the Southwest Arts Conference organized by the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The conference, in its 30th year, provides networking opportunities plus resources and information for the arts groups across the state.

Marin, regarded as the country’s foremost private collectors of Latino artworks, will be speaking on the interpretation of a culture through Chicano art. In the last two years, many of this avid collector’s paintings have been touring in the show Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge.

“I’ve used my celebrity to bring more attention and focus to these artists,” he says candidly, adding that his main focus now is on a special segment of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. The HSF scholarships are awarded to young Chicano artists.

But what if you are not a famous actor with money to spend on paintings? Marin says Latinos can find other ways to express their support of the arts.

“Support your local artists! But mostly, if you are not an artist, support arts programs because the more they can be supported by the community, the faster they’ll grow.”

He points to such arts programs as Self Help Graphics & Art in Los Angeles, where scores of Chicano artists found support and resources.

“And the places where (Chicano art) has flourished, it’s because they have a center where these arts are taught. People come from the community and participate. Most of the Chicano artists in Los Angeles came through Self Help Graphics.”

Marin says it was not just one artist that spurred his collecting.

“I kind of discovered all of them at the same time. They all knew each other. It was a movement that had not faded and was continuing.”

When pressed to name a few of his favorites, Marin says that would be “like choosing among your children.” Still, he rattled off several names, including Patssi Valdez and César Martinez.

When Latinos see these artists’ works on the walls, it should prompt them to begin a dialogue with museum officials or gallery owners.

“Support your arts. Go and see them and insist in your community that they show these arts, especially in your mainstream museum.”

He says it will take a change in perception for mainstream museums to  recognize Chicano arts. He’s determined to help transform long-held views.

“It’s like any kind of entertainment per se. It takes a long time. The thing about the art audience, it’s a relatively small audience.

“But we have time. And I’m persistent.”

Southwest Arts Conference
Jan. 26 at Glendale Civic Center,
in Glendale.  Info: www.azarts.gov

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