Montoya’s Artistic Legacy Lives on Through Scholarship

Jose Montoya

The late Sacramento State art professor Jose Montoya, MFA ’70, is perhaps best known for his art collective, the Royal Chicano Air Force. The group was established to promote Chicano civil rights and the efforts of the United Farm Workers movement.

Jose Montoya, MFA '70 (Art), was a legendary muralist, a renowned poet and a respected teacher. But for those who knew him best, one descriptor encompasses the man: artist.

A Sacramento State professor from 1974 through 1997, Montoya's impact on the campus, the community and his culture is immeasurable.

"He was a Renaissance man, but art was central to everything he did," says Juanita Montoya, his wife.

Jose, who was Poet Laureate in Sacramento from 2002-04, died in 2013 at age 81 after battling lymphoma. Juanita knew a scholarship in his name for students in art was a fitting tribute and hopes that along with offering a financial boost, the scholarship will also provide inspiration.

Jose is best known as co-founder of the Rebel Chicano Art Front, which later adopted the name Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF). The Sacramento art collective rallied for equal rights, combining their unique brand of art, poetry and activism to support Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Often dressed in throwback military garb, the RCAF organized community events and promoted education through art.

As a professor, Jose was a pioneer in community engagement. He established the Barrio Art Program, which sent Sacramento State students into schools to work with younger students and into senior centers to connect with elderly citizens in the city. The program reinforced the idea of art as an all-encompassing subject, drawing connections to history, math, science and more.

Jose's roots as a high school teacher gave him a unique perspective. He was the only professor at Sacramento State qualified to sign off on single-subject teaching credentials in art and he took particular pride in preparing educators. The scholarship in his name is intended for students majoring in art with an interest in teaching.

"There is a certain confidence you have to have to create at any level and we come with that innate element-that's how we study, how we learn," Juanita says. "Everything that Jose indulged in, his intent was to create and that was consistent from the early days until his death."

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