Gala to celebrate two decades of the Public Academy for Performing Arts - Albuquerque Journal

Gala to celebrate two decades of the Public Academy for Performing Arts

Public Academy for Performing Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an event at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of PAPA)

In two decades, the Public Academy for Performing Arts has been able to teach hundreds of students.

Many have continued with a career in the arts.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, PAPA will be holding its Platinum Gala, which celebrates two decades since the school’s inception.

“We would have had it last year but the pandemic didn’t allow for an event like this,” says Naomi Elizabeth Montoya, PAPA performing arts coordinator.

The event will have 21 PAPA alumni coming back to take the stage at the Albuquerque Journal Theatre at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

In 2000, a small group of community members, with the help and guidance of others, created a plan for a school where creative, talented students could grow and develop into master creative learners and beings.

The founders, Frank Butler, Joan Findley Perls, Kristina Lord Linde, Fred Pink, Bob Perls and Valerie Scott created the first mission statement, “Our mission is to create a New Mexico charter school that will provide an environment to develop an excellent academic and performing arts foundation for interested students. We are not here to create the stars of tomorrow; rather we are here to create a whole human being today.”

Albuquerque Public Schools approved the application, and the PAPA opened its doors in August, 2001.

The school started with 180 students in grades 6 through 9, PAPA has grown to its maximum 450 in grades 6 through 12. Further growth is limited by the current facility.

Montoya says the school has a diverse student population selected through a lottery process. Students are from all over the city, Rio Rancho, south to Belen, east to Moriarty, and north as far as Santa Fe.

“I’m in full support of young people being artists,” Montoya says. “It’s been a journey to see many of the students grow into their profession. A lot of them remain in the arts in some way. Some students haven’t pursued a career in the performing arts. But their art background has helped them by learning to multi-task. We have a couple of students that are nurses and we need those people to support arts education.”

Montoya says there will be a variety of filmmakers coming back for the event.

There will also be vocalists, as well as original skits being performed.

“There were many more alumni that wanted to participate,” she says. “Many of them had a conflict in their schedule because they are performing with companies. I think that’s a good problem to have.”

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