Meet Roger Montoya

My ancestral roots run deep in Northern New Mexico. My father was born in Los Montoya’s in San Miguel County, and my mother in the mountain village of Peñasco, New Mexico. As a child, I spent many summers and winter breaks on my grandparent’s farm in Peñasco, playing in the mountains above Highway 76 (on the High Road to Taos).  


I am an artist and have worked in all different mediums during my life: Gymnast, Dancer, Painter, Actor, Choreographer and Producer, Teacher, and Gardener.  My ability to think creatively and work collaboratively with discipline and commitment has informed my community organizing and advocacy work. 


I began my career as a professional dancer in Los Angeles and New York City. I returned to New Mexico in 1990 and began a 30 year career as a professional landscape painter.  I also saw up close the devastating effects of historic trauma and cyclical poverty in this region. I was at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in New Mexico, and in response I began to address the gaps in health services for rural New Mexicans living with life threatening illnesses.  Eventually I realized that I could have the greatest impact by bringing arts education to our children and youth. I know that “Art is Medicine” and have seen it move children, and community, from a place of “Trauma to Trust.” Most recently, I am working to address the paralyzing effects homelessness and addiction, and insure healthy meals for our most vulnerable families.

In 2007, I met my life partner, Salvador Ruiz Esquivel.  Together, we are committed to continue to serve our community.

I am proud to have founded or co-founded the following organizations: 

Española H.E.L.P.S.

(HIV Education Longevity Prevention and Support) to provide financial support for rural New Mexicans to obtain complementary therapies from 1994 to 1998.

La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences

A K-8 public state charter school, in 2011, to provide a holistic educational choice focusing on the legacy agricultural traditions of the region. The School is located on the tribal land of Ohkay Owingeh.

Española Public Schools “Arts in the Schools”

A program to provide an integrated multi-arts program in twelve elementary schools from 2002 to 2010. 

Moving Arts Española

Together with my partner, Salvador, who currently serves as Executive Director. Started in 2008 to provide in-school and out-of-school arts programming to ignite the spirit of young people. 

Española Pathways Shelter

The first-ever comprehensive homeless shelter, to serve our community members dealing with homelessness and recovery, in 2019. 

Through a partnership with TRIAD/Los Alamos National Laboratory and United Way of Northern New Mexico, I worked to improve the health and well-being of our of region’s residents by bringing together community, nonprofit and government stakeholders to address youth job training and substance abuse, domestic violence, and affordable housing, and establishing the Arriba Empowerment Center as a community health incubator in Rio Arriba county, 2018-2020.

Currently, I’m spearheading the COVID 19 Emergency Response Grant funding through the Northern New Mexico Food Network in partnership with the Santa Fe Community Foundation to ten regional nonprofits to provide emergency food and safety supplies to Northern New Mexico’s most vulnerable, 2020.




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