A fundraiser Sept. 6 at Moving Arts Española celebrating Artistic Director and Co-Founder Roger Montoya’s selection as a 2019 CNN Hero raised over $2,000 for the youth arts nonprofit.
While donations do not directly determine the top 10 Heroes to be featured on a live TV special in December, they indicate public interest for the CNN review panel choosing candidates, along with social media interaction tagging @CNNHeroes.
Montoya and Moving Arts were the subject of three short documentary videos and an article released in August as part of the annual CNN Heroes program highlighting exceptional community leaders.
Montoya said in an interview the top 10 Heroes will be announced in November. Each will receive $10,000 and a single Hero of the Year chosen by public vote will receive $100,000 for their organization.
At $8,737 in online donations through the CNN Heroes site at press time Monday, Montoya currently sits at third of the 15 people profiled so far.
Moving Arts Advisory Board Member Jeannie Kovacs said the organization also received $12,000 in physical donations and a 15-passenger van valued at $10,000 from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.
She said CNN producers check in weekly for reports on the impacts of the national attention.
About 250 people watched as local politicians and public figures spoke in support of Montoya at the celebration, including Española Mayor Javier Sanchez, Northern New Mexico College President Richard Bailey, state Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, a representative of Assistant U.S. House Speaker Ben Ray Luján, state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, Rio Arriba County Economic Development Director Christopher Madrid, state Cabinet Secretary for Department of Cultural Affairs Debra Garcia y Griego, prominent Kundalini Yoga teacher Gurubachan Singh Khalsa, state Rep. Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde, and County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo.
Montoya said speakers flooded in during the planning process.
“It was kind of like a grass fire, we invited one person and then people kept calling,” he said. “I was humbled, delighted, inspired by the diversity of attendees, from our Pueblos, to our grandparents, to civic leaders. It was cohesive in that everyone was united around the concept that we as a community are responsible for children, youth and families in the region.”
Moving Arts offers a broad catalogue of performing and visual arts classes for children, as well as meals and academic support.
Montoya and his partner, Executive/School Director Salvador Ruiz-Esquivel, founded the program in 2008, building on their backgrounds in different schools of dance and art.
Kovacs said the potential $10,000 from reaching the top 10 Heroes would be distributed evenly between Moving Arts’ operations, programs, and facilities.
Herrera told the crowd much of the effort to improve the Española Valley is built around Moving Arts.
“Roger and Salvador were early, early movers of this movement and I think we are building on their work,” she said
Madrid said Montoya’s work, and his refusal to accept the status quo when it is harmful, is inspirational.
“You don’t try to change it by yourself — you’re a community organizer — you get us to look at the problem,” he said. “If (community leaders) are all at the top of our game, we still cannot enact the change that we want and desire for our community. It takes more than leadership. It takes every individual, each and every one of us to make that difference. We have to reach down inside and pull out our inner Roger.”