Morgan Momsen awarded first Plein Air scholarship

Posted on July 8, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

A Sonoma Valley school teacher has been awarded the first annual Plein Air scholarship to support art education certification. Throughout the public school system, arts education is one of the most impactful but poorly funded learning experiences students can access. While extensive research links training in the arts to enhanced learning skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, self-discipline, focus and classroom engagement, funding for arts education is often at the bottom of school budgets.

All of which makes the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation a critical component in Sonoma Valley’s learning landscape. The Foundation, founded in 2002 by renowned artist Keith Wicks and philanthropist Judy Vadasz, has now donated more than $2 million to support art education at every level in the Sonoma Valley. This year the Foundation is distributing grants totallng $175,000 to Valley schools, as well as to community partners including Art Escape, the Sonoma Arts Guild, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, La Luz Center, the Sonoma Community Center and the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

Funding for the grants comes from the annual Plein Air Festival, which attracts nationally-known artists who paint in and around Sonoma for a week, then sell their work and donate 40 percent of the proceeds to support the arts education program.

Earlier this year, in recognition of her contributions as cofounder, board member and patron, the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation established the Judy Vadasz Scholarship to support art education certification for a Sonoma Valley elementary school teacher.  The scholarship will be awarded annually to an elementary school teacher in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District who wants to become certified to teach art in grades K-5.

The first recipient of the scholarship has been announced as Morgan Momsen, a teacher at El Verano Elementary School.  Morgan will be pursuing a certificate to teach art to elementary school students. She is a Sonoma Valley High School graduate who fell in love with art and photography there and went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in Art and Design with a concentration in Photography.  After working for a time in photography, Morgan realized that “teaching is it for me” and pursued a career there.  She has now earned multiple subject credentials and now plans to combine her passion for the arts with her love of teaching by becoming certified to teach art to elementary school students.  

“We are very excited to recognize Morgan as this year’s Judy Vadasz Scholarship recipient”, said Cheryl Shimek, President of the Plein Air Board.  “Morgan has been described as ‘a born educator’ by Katie Hahn, Principal at El Verano Elementary School, and we believe she will become an excellent art teacher once she is certified.”

As the primary non-profit supporting arts education for Sonoma Valley K-12 students, the Foundation depends on funds from its annual Sonoma Plein Air Festival week.  This year’s Festival will take place the week of September 9-14, with 31 award-winning, professional artists from across America spending the week painting outdoors (“en plein air”) around Sonoma Valley, Marin County and San Francisco. Festival week includes the Gala, as well as a “Quick Draw” at the Plaza Tuesday Market, and the weekend Art Show and Sale on the Plaza.  Quick Draw and the Art Show and Sale are free events and open to the public.  Tickets to this year’s Gala on September 13 will be available on the website in July. For more information, visit   

Anyone interested in being a part of the Sonoma Plein Air Festival is welcome to sign up on the Volunteer page on the website,

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