More than just an afterschool program: Española nonprofit plans for expansion

Community Reports

ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Moving Arts Española is looking to expand its services and its campus. The nonprofit was recently awarded a $100,000 matching grant from the Thoma Art Foundation to remodel part of the old Ohkay Hotel Casino.

The organization is in its thirteenth year and while its services in the past have been targeted towards younger students, the team now hopes to create a teen center in addition to the services they provide for younger children. Board of Directors President and Northern New Mexico College Professor Steve Cox said they hope to expand their reach in the community. “We want to serve middle and high school students. This is an extremely underserved age in an impoverished region, these kids need a place of their own,” Cox said. “They need the love and support that Moving Arts offers but they need to do that in a place around other teens where they can graduate to being adults.”

Co-founder and Executive Director Salvador Ruiz said programming will provide services specifically designed to nurture and empower youth from middle school age all the way to colleges like mental health services and career prep. “We’ve been using the art to heal the children, but we don’t have the training to work with the emotional aspect, so we need to partner with an organization that has the training,” Ruiz said.

Middle schooler Jonathan Sanchez has been participating in Moving Arts programs for five years in drama and cooking courses. Sanchez said he was so inspired by his culinary classes and teacher that he decided to start a YouTube channel for his own cooking. “It’s more than just an afterschool program for the arts. It’s a family of friends and mentors,” Sanchez said. “I’ve made friends there I wouldn’t have otherwise, I’ve done things I wouldn’t have done without Moving Arts.”

The organization is still looking for funding and other revenues to partner with the community to help make this expansion a reality. “It’s going to be a challenge, but that’s our middle name. We use challenge as a fuel to develop, to look for other ways to overcome many of the challenges in the community,” Ruiz said. “It’s exciting, it’s nerve-racking at the same time. I think the stars are aligned, it’s just going to take a lot of work.”

Everyone involved remains optimistic that they’ll raise the estimated $500,000 for the remodel to begin work on it this summer. “The place in my head, the place I’m imagining is a wonderful, unique, amazing temple to the arts,” Sanchez said. “That’s the most exciting part for me, is that I know it’s possible.”

For more information on the organization or how to donate, visit their website at movingartsespanola.org.

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