In a regular reminder that mega-corporations and arts funding are not an ideal mixture, Amazon has cut ties and scrapped their ongoing funding of The Cheech Marin Centre for Chicano Art at the Riverside Art Museum. With word getting out via a leaked document for the company’s 2024 PR and business plans, it is evident that Amazon did not take kindly to the Centre’s exhibition of works critical (well, maybe a bit more than critical) of their methods.
The Cheech of course gets its name from beloved comic actor Cheech Marin, one half of the legendary duo Cheech and Chong, who has become an avid collector of Chicano art. With his collection of Chicano art hailed as possibly the largest in the world, it’s unsurprising that the museum, located in Riverside, California, would want to honour the entertainer and collector—especially after gifting them work. Since its opening in 2022, The Cheech has secured support en masse from the enthusiastic public as well as the city of Riverside and the state of California, to the tune of $800,000 annually and over $10 million, respectively.
But Amazon, who was only granting them a humble sum of $5,000, has put an end to their support due to the work of University of California student Toni Sanchez and her piece BURN THEM ALL DOWN. Displayed as part of the exhibition “Life Logistics”, the work had little beyond the title itself displayed—save for images of burning Amazon warehouses. It’s a simple piece with a clear message of resistance in the face of the corporate titan’s presence in the area via warehouses. In the leaked documents, it stated that the final decision to cut ties stemmed from Sanchez giving “an interview expressing hostility towards Amazon.”
The Riverside Art Museum and The Cheech have held strong in their support of the artist, museum director Drew Oberjuerge stating “We believe in supporting artists and curators who challenge, surprise, delight, annoy and anger. It’s through this dialogue we better understand our shared experience.” With Amazon’s ended donations being a drop in the bucket compared to the support they have, there is clearly no fiscal or ideological loss for the centre. They’re well-positioned to carry on with the intent of Marin’s words on the centre’s direction: “We have something wonderful to give.”