For 24 years Signatures from Big Sky has shared what Montana's young artists create.

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History of Signatures from Big Sky
Montana Student Literary Magazine

October 1990—Shirley Olson and Del Siegle from AGATE and Jan Clinard from MATELA, having discussed the need for a student literary/art magazine in Montana, convened with MAEA members and other educators at the MEA convention in Bozeman.

All three groups had the same mission in mind:
• DEVELOP an opportunity for young Montana artists and writers to publish;
• CREATE a publishing experience as quest for excellence rather than a contest; and
• PROVIDE a resource for teachers and students in classroom work in the arts.

They arbitrarily divided the state into six geographical areas (with another added later), and sent letters and flyers out to advertise the new project.

Two volunteer educators (one in art and one in writing) from each area signed on to serve as an editing board. Each area held regional selection committee meetings to choose the best work of the pieces submitted to them. These twelve, with Shirley, Del and Jan, met in Helena that March to further select and assemble the work. Del Siegle, GT teacher in Glendive, designed and formatted the magazine, ArtCraft of Billings printed it, and the Montana Office of Public Instruction mailed it.

Eighty-five students from 39 schools were published. Each selected contributor received two complimentary copies. Every applicant who sent SASE's received a personal note of encouragement and suggestions on his or her returned work, as the board believed this contact would encourage student and teacher to work further for excellence on that piece and future work.

SIGNATURES From Big Sky was born.

In the years to follow, SIGNATURES
• ADDED another geographical area for a total of seven;
• WELCOMED Montana Arts Council Artists-in-Schools/Communities work in a special section when they were unable to publish their student work as they had in the past;
• REFINED the advertising process to send posters to all school libraries and flyers to Elementary and Middle School principals, high school Art and Writing Departments, and the list of submitting teachers from the previous year; and
• SOUGHT and received grants in various years from

Montana Committee of the Humanities
Montana Magazine
Montana Power
Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation
Montana Arts Council
Turner Foundation
Budgeted Funds form AGATE, MATELA and MAEA
Town Pump

In 2012, having published for 22 years, SIGNATURES has become fairly well known, and hundreds of teachers and students have participated in the publishing process.

This year [2012] numbers of published pieces include
• 140+ students from
• 100+ teachers in
• 7+ schools of
• 60+ communities

Published material was selected from hundreds of students selections submitted by
• 230 teachers in
•115 schools from
• 76 Montana communities

Distributed SIGNATURES From Big Sky 2012 to
• 140 published students
• 150 volunteers and Friends of SIGNATURES
• 80 teachers of published students
• 80 selection committee members
• 20 present board members
• 30 past board members
• 10 MATELA board
• 20 AGATE board
• 5 MAEA board
• 5 MAC and MTCT

In the Future
• EXPAND and build upon the SIGNATURES web page, including links to specific volumes, related links regarding publishing and other opportunities, and SIGNATURES submissions;
• MAINTAIN or increase slightly funding for the project as postage and printing costs continue to rise. The Cultural Trust Grants and the Montana Arts Council Grants have enabled SIGNATURES to increase the number of pages, upgrade from saddle-stitching to perfect binding, and refine the publication process and the final product itself, all while maintaining the established level of student involvement;
• CONTINUE “educating” educators at MEA/MFT and AGATE workshops on how to evaluate student work and help students prepare pieces for publication, thus encouraging excellence in the classroom;
• INVOLVE educators in the process as board members, selection committee participants, and submitting teachers;
• CONTACT more teachers across the state via our regional board members; and
• ENGAGE students across Montana, encouraging them to strive for the excellence that publication requires and to experience the publishing process.

SIGNATURES From Big Sky reaches so many students—from isolated and small schools across rural Montana to pieces from foreign exchange students, students of diverse cultures, race and backgrounds, to special needs as well as Honor and AP students. Every student who chooses—every single student—can submit his or her work for publication. And for 24 years, SIGNATURES From Big Sky has made it possible for them to share with their peers, teachers, parents and communities what Montana's young artists create.


Original artwrok by Kaylee Kerzman
  Signatures from Big Sky is published by Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE), Montana Association of Teachers of English/Language Arts, Montana Art Education Association, Montana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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