MONTEREY — Former King City resident Hector Dionicio Mendoza and Greenfield volunteer Silka Saavedra will be honored for their contribution to the arts this Saturday at the 14th Annual Champions of the Arts Gala, presented by the Arts Council for Monterey County.

The Feb. 2 gala will celebrate the local arts community while raising funds to support art programs throughout the region. Each year the Arts Council recognizes a nonprofit organization as well as individuals for lifetime achievement, luminary, volunteer leader, professional, educator and art supporter awards.

Mendoza will be presented with the 2019 Professional Artist Award.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant from Mexico and then we came to King City, and that’s where I went to school,” Mendoza said in a published video on the Arts Council’s YouTube page. “I really value and I really believe in mentorship. … I’ve had the trajectory that I had because I had really good mentors early on, and so I feel very fortunate to have had that in my life to guide me.”

Mendoza was born in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico, but grew up in King City. After graduating from high school with honors, he studied graphic design at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and completed his bachelor’s degree at California College of the Arts in Oakland. In 2009, he received his master’s degree in fine art from Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

“One of the reasons why I came back to this area after living in Europe and in Oakland and New York is because I want to come back and be a mentor and give back to my community,” he said.

The mixed-media artist, who uses recycled clay, concrete and rust in combination with found objects, has been invited to several artist-in-residence programs and exhibitions in Europe. His recent projects include a solo exhibition and artist residency titled “Process in Progress” at the Monterey Museum of Art.

“This exhibit was the museum’s first artist residency, where Mendoza engaged the community in issues of social practice and reciprocity through socio-cultural inquiry around art-making,” according to the Arts Council website, which posted bios on this year’s Champions.

Mendoza now teaches in the Visual and Public Art Department at California State University Monterey Bay.

Saavedra will be presented with the 2019 Volunteer Leader Award.

Over the past 10 years, Saavedra has brought arts and community programming to Greenfield. Every October she volunteers as the program director for the annual Greenfield Harvest Festival, which brings hundreds of people to downtown for a parade, live music, arts and crafts and other activities.

“Greenfield Harvest Festival is my big baby, it’s my signature event. I’ve been producing the entertainment part of the festival for over eight years,” Saavedra said in her Arts Council video. “It’s incredible how many people just come out to the Harvest Festival to do arts and crafts, to enjoy the music.”

In addition, Saavedra has introduced local dance and art programs with the Sunday’s In The Park program and through her leadership as chair of the Greenfield Cultural Arts Center.

“Being a volunteer takes commitment, it takes time. I know that, and sometimes I don’t have it, but it’s really hard to say no because it’s just so gratifying,” she said. “We’re very fortunate and lucky to live in Greenfield because there’s such a need for programming, there’s such a need for events that keep our youth entertained, there’s such a need for arts.”

Saavedra also helped to bring back the Greenfield Fourth of July Celebration, and she currently works with businesses and schools to bring free programs to the migrant farming community.

“She has improved the community’s quality of life by supporting the preservation of traditional art in Greenfield,” wrote the Arts Council in Saavedra’s online bio.

Other 2019 award winners include jazz pioneer Dottie Dodgion for lifetime achievement; Urban Arts Collaborative founder Juan-Carlos Gonzalez for luminary; North Monterey County Unified School District teacher and band leader Marcie Chapa for educator; local mentors Malcolm and Judith Weintraub for art supporters; and printmaking facility Open Ground Studios for nonprofit.

The 14th Annual Champions of the Arts Gala opens with a reception Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa and includes an auction of fine art and a raffle for wine and gifts, followed by a gourmet dinner and the awards presentation.

“We hosted a record 450 guests last year and we hope to have a very full house once again,” said Nicollette Trottier, new event chair and local realtor. “Our guests love Champions — the atmosphere is both elegant and electric. Our team is ready for a spectacular gala and we have several surprises in store.”

All proceeds from the gala benefit local youth arts education programs, with support going toward teaching artist residencies in schools and community centers throughout Monterey County. For tickets, visit

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