2023 – End of the year summary from our Executive Director, Drew Oberjuerge

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2023 – an exceptional year! Riverside Art Museum celebrates The Cheech being open its first full year. Thanks to the 130,000 people, including 10,000 students on tours, who visited The Cheech and RAM’s Julia Morgan building to see our critically acclaimed exhibitions. Between both sites, 20 exhibitions featuring the works of over 250 diverse artists educated, inspired, and helped us to understand our humanity in these complex times. Fifty-four programs – including free events like the Pura Pachanga, artist talks, panels, and symposia – created opportunities for connection and community. And, we worked to be in national dialogue through our partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino to tour Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective, starting in Corpus Christi, Texas, then on to El Paso, and opening soon at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Oklahoma! In addition, our team of teaching artists taught nearly 5,000 art lessons in Inland Empire-based schools as well as on-site art classes and workshops, bringing the wonder of creating to nearly 30,000 students. RAM’s The 52 Project encouraged folks that it’s never too late to focus on your art practice, and the Art Alliance’s Riverside Art Market welcomed 5,000 visitors and 100 artisan vendors.

Riverside Art Museum did this unprecedented work in partnership, so thanks to those partners for their commitment to uplifting artistic voices that connect us all. We are also grateful to our many partners including, but not limited to, the City of Riverside, Riverside Unified School District, Val Verde Unified School District, local institutions of higher learning faculty, staff and students like UC Riverside’s Chicano Student Programs, Cosmé Cordova and Division 9 Gallery, Cultura con Llantas, Mexicali Biennial, Unidos For La Causa, Inc., Riverside Latino Network, The Garcia Center for the Arts, Eastside Arthouse, Inlandia Institute, Cellar Door Bookstore, Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, American Federation of Arts, National Museum of the American Latino, and LACMA. A BIG thank you to Cheech Marin who dreamed that all of this was possible, whose relentless advocacy for Chicano art has changed American art forever, and who always has a little fun doing it!

We are very grateful for a $100,000 matching gift from the Wingate Foundation to launch our inaugural Acquisitions Fund to ensure that we are actively working to collect and preserve work by diverse artists. Over the past year and a half, Riverside Art Museum has added over 150 works by nearly 90 artists; a majority of whom are new to the permanent collections. Spanning from 1920 to 2023, all of these works augment the museum’s joint holdings and amplify the commitment to equitably diversify acquisitions and to collect from innovative points of view.

This was a year of unexpected recognition! The Cheech was nominated by USA Today Readers’ Choice 2024 for “Best New Museum!” The Riverside Art Museum received the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ highest honor – one of only four museums in 2023 –  for “dynamic programming and services that exceed expected levels of service….through their community outreach, these institutions bring about change that touches the lives of individuals and helps communities thrive.” Our partners were honored, too. The City of Riverside received the Helen Putnam Award for Economic Development Through the Arts for “The Cheech” from the League of California Cities.Our architectural firm Page & Turnbull was a winner in the 2023 Modernism in America Awards, receiving a Civic/Institutional Design Citation of Merit from DocomomoUS for the firm’s preservation of the mid-century building to make it the home of The Cheech.

The museum also received an extraordinary amount of news coverage this year by local, regional and national press, from PBS NewsHour, CBS Mornings and KVCR TV, to Inland Empire Magazine and Artillery Magazine, to The Press-Enterprise, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. Almost 850 stories were shared to audiences about our exhibitions, the artists featured in our collections, and our work in the community.

And, you chose us! By becoming a member, buying a ticket, taking a class, following us on social media, shopping in our stores, voting for us as Best New Museum, or attending a unique fundraising event like the Pachuco Ball, Music from Below, and Artoberfest, you are part of our movement to reinvent museums, center artist voices, and continually seek innovative and creative ways to embrace our shared humanity. While we are fortunate to have partners investing in our success, it is individuals like you who are the backbone of philanthropic giving for nonprofits like ours. Nationwide, individual gifts make up over 70% of donations. And we need you today. We have a tight budget gap to close, and we hope you will give today. The first $2,000 in donations received now through December 31st will be matched dollar for dollar (by a donation from RAM Trustee Adam Guzkowski), essentially doubling your impact! We ask that you make your tax-deductible donation today to help us reach our year-end giving goals and to take advantage of Adam’s matching gift. If you can’t make a monetary gift today, we would love the gift of your presence at one of our upcoming events in the New Year!

We have much to look forward to as we focus on more free access days (Free Summer Sundays coming up in 2024 thanks to Art Bridges’ Access for All program) and opening much anticipated exhibitions likeJudithe Hernández | Beyond Myself, Somewhere, I Wait for My Arrival, welcoming homeRico Gatson on February 16, 2024 to celebrate his “Icons”exhibition, and learning more about Charles Bibbs. We also will share more about the historic preservation study of our Julia Morgan building (made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation) and will be bringing on a Director of Interpretation through the Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative made possible by the Walton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy.

Thank you for believing in our mission. We look forward to welcoming you in 2024!

Drew Oberjuerge, Executive Director, Riverside Art Museum