African American Museum and Cultural Center in the works

By Dianne Anderson

It’s not for lack of talent, the Inner Empire never had a gallery where black artists could congregate to display their work, bask in their creativity, or otherwise have a home — until now.

In the works, the Charles A. Bibbs African American Museum & Cultural Center will serve to house and preserve renowned and emerging works of art.

Janice Rooths said the center is currently in the planning stages, but it’s unclear how big it could grow.

“We want the whole region to know this is happening,” said Rooths, chairman of the center’s board.

On June 12, the community is invited to an AfroNoon celebration at White Park in downtown Riverside at Market and 9th Street. The Artists’ Village event features a mini-museum and Charles Bibbs as well as local regional and national artists, among high profile sponsors IEHP and the Town of Riverside. Rooths said vendors, sponsors and volunteers are welcome to RSVP to the event, which runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Last August, they received their nonprofit status and, pending approvals, are gearing up to launch by the end of 2023. When complete, it will feature regional creative outlets, but they also expect to attract African-American influences across the spectrum and around the world.

In addition to the museum’s permanent collections, the cultural center will highlight various aspects of visual art, ancient, modern or futuristic, as well as traveling collections.

They are in contact with engineers and architects about potential technologies, such as ordering products from anywhere inside the museum. A creative concept includes the Nile to the Tree of Life, possibly with water flowing below with fish.

“[It’s to] to have a sense of where we come from and how we are all branches of it, the creativity that our black community can bring to the world, and that we at ‘the Bibbs’ can help cultivate in the world,” Rooths said. , who also holds many community positions, including Riverside Branch NAACP, and as Human Relations Commissioner.

She said the region has long awaited a world-class museum, an incubator for the artist-in-residence program, as well as programs for K-12 junior artists.

Architectural renders are not yet available, but she said they are looking to move downtown. Once the land is acquired, environmental impact reports will follow.

The idea came about two years ago when Mr Bibbs received an award from the city council and met the city manager. At first, the vision was to create a black college in Riverside. They began calling the project “the Bibbs” to house both culture and art, as well as an affiliation with the HBCU.

“We did the opposite. [to] first enroll in HBCU’s Artist-in-Residence program. Right now we are in talks with RCC to provide credit courses, from there maybe evolve into a college with more emerging artists in residence,” she said.

The past two years have been tough with most people stuck in the house, but it’s also sparked the need to buy more art and brighten things up.

Charles Bibbs said his business has done well, which he says reflects the power of art to inspire during dark times. Other intense periods of history, such as the Black Panthers and the civil rights movement also penned much artistic expression.

“As artists, we did well because we told the story with brushes and pencils. We were one of those groups during the chaos that helped sort things out. We’re blessed to have done that, do something to stem the tide to encourage people not to give up,” he said.

Bibbs, an internationally acclaimed artist based in Riverside, envisions the center will attract a boom in cultural activity to its 100-seat arena featuring three or four art galleries and exhibits. A library will exclusively present works on the history of blacks and African-Americans.

He said they were raising funds and support, letting the community know about the benefits of the center as a place to celebrate and that young people needed a place to learn their story.

“It’s one of the things we’re going through right now in our schools to finally get them to tell the truth about the beginnings of this country. Our cultural center will be a place where our students can come and learn things that they are not taught in school,” he said.

He hopes to see a partnership like the Riverside Art Museum’s Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture with the City of Riverside. Named after the famous comedian and art collector, it is due to open in June.

Bibbs said 65% of the local population is of Mexican descent, which provides good traffic for the future. He said Riverside has always wanted to be more than a transit town, and the partnership with Cheech has changed the dynamic.

“I can’t go to LA and talk to my Chicano friends without them talking about Riverside,” he said. “It’s the place for Chicano art. What we’re trying to do is be a center in Riverside for African American art.

Bibbs has dedicated decades to preparing artists to present their works to the community through various venues, including digital, hard copies and sales.

Its ultimate goal is to establish the hub of community flourishing, where artists can learn from each other and cultivate their creativity for a long time.

“It’s time for this region to have something that celebrates black people, we come together to pay tribute to celebrate our history,” he said. “It has to be an institution that will stand the test of time.”

To learn more about the museum or sales opportunities, email

James C. Tibbs