Beginning in the late '60s, Mexican Americans across Aztlan engaged in a widespread movement to achieve social justice in America. The Chicano movimiento, as it came to be known, called for the mass mobilization of our gente to bring national attention to our demands for political power, racial equality and educational reform. It was during this time that poster making and mural painting became powerful tools in helping to disseminate vital information about political activities to the masses. In essence, for Chicanos, it was the beginnings of integrating politics and art. Subsequently, this fostered the development of Chicano art and ultimately propagated the Chicano Art Movement.

These gifted groups of individuals sought to demonstrate pride, cultural identity and aesthetic beauty through their art as a means of expressing their needs as well as the needs of the Chicano community at large. Today, Chicano art continues to be at the heart of our struggles. Over the years, Chicanos have been successful in developing a wealth of cultural expression through painting, drawing, sculpture and lithography. However, much Chicano artistic work has yet to be included in mainstream museums. Though there has been a continued development of Chicano arts, for the most part, its validation has not come from mainstream institutions.

Only recently has Chicano and Latino art been presented in a small number of museums. In order to offset this lack of recognition, Latinos have been left to create their own art institutions and forge their own artistic exhibitions. Perhaps one of the most eager efforts to further examine Chicano art is a new traveling exhibit appropriately titled "Chicano." The exhibit, presented by Target Stores and sponsored by the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands of DaimlerChrysler, was the vision of veteran actor Cheech Marin, who is best known for his roles in the Cheech and Chong movie classics.

"We're bringing our interpretation of the Chicano experience to the American public," says Cheech about the exhibit which will feature his own personal Chicano art collection, one of the largest in the world. "I want all Americans to understand that Chicano culture plays a big part in the patchwork quilt that is Americana. The contributions of Chicanos have been so enormous, but they tend to be overlooked." The exhibit will house the original works of more than two-dozen veteran Chicano painters including Charles "Chaz" Bojorquez, Gronk, Patssi Valdez, Carmen Lomas Garcia, Alex Rubio and Magu, who personally designed a cherried-out lowrider for the exhibit.

According to Rene Yanez, curator of "Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge," (on view at the Museo Americano in Alameda, California) the portion that focuses primarily on the art, easel paintings of oil or acrylic on canvas will form the core of the exhibit. But also attached to this mobile Chicano showcase are the likes of the comedy troupe Culture Clash; comedians Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez; writer/artist Guillermo Gomez Pena; filmmakers Robert Rodriguez, Gustavo Vazquez and Lourdes Portillo; and journalist Giselle Fernandez, all of whom helped to put together a 5,000-square-foot interactive multimedia exhibit titled "Chicano Now: American Expressions."

"Chicano shines a spotlight on a culture rich in values and traditions," relates John Remington, vice president of special events and publicity for Target Stores. "Target is presenting the exhibit so that the entire country can take part in the Chicano experience and celebrate the diversity that makes America great." The Chicano exhibit kicked off at the San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio, Texas, on December 15 and will run through April 15, but will visit 14 other U.S. cities within the next five years, including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with additional cities to be announced. "It's going to be a rip-roaring party," promises Cheech. "And everyone's invited."