Signatures from Big Sky celebrates 30 years
Gomez, Czelsi
/ Categories: Arts Education

Signatures from Big Sky celebrates 30 years

Montana’s Association for Gifted and Talented Education (MT AGATE) is seeking submissions for the 2020 edition of Signatures from Big Sky – the only publication that features the writing and artwork of Montana’s K-12 students. The 2020 edition will mark the magazine’s 30th anniversary.

In October of 1990, Shirley Olson and Del Siegel from AGATE and Jan Clinard from MATELA discussed the need for a student literary and art magazine in Montana and later convened with seven other educators at the MEA Convention in Bozeman. Three goals emerged from the collaboration:

• To provide an opportunity for young Montana artists and writers to publish;

• To make it a publishing experience, striving for excellence, not a contest; and

• To provide a resource for teachers and students in classroom work in the arts.

Several hundred pieces of writing and art were received in 1991: 85 K-12 students were published from 39 schools. Each selected contributor received one copy and another for his/her teacher. 

Signatures from Big Sky continued to reach out to as many Montana students as possible by various means. The publication welcomed Montana Arts Council Artists in Schools and Communities work in a special section when they were unable to publish their student work as they had in the past.

Signatures board members were invited to present sectionals at the annual teacher conventions and other state meetings. Posters were sent to all school libraries and flyers were delivered to elementary and middle school principals, high school art and writing teachers, county superintendents and the list of submitting teachers from the previous year. In addition, Signatures contributed student art for a Montana Health and Services Calendar for five years.

Every year, the publication receives hundreds of submissions and enjoys a robust selection from talented young people across the state.
The work displayed in Signatures has shown what it has been like to grow up in Montana over the last 29 years, in small towns, cities and ranches, from foreign exchange students, fifth-generation Montanans and Native students whose ancestors go even further back than that.

“The perspectives are as unique as the art and writing itself and we are proud to share them,” says coordinator Mandy Maass.

Signatures relies on funding from MT AGATE as well as grants to continue publishing and has recently received financial support from the Montana Cultural Trust, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, NorthWestern Energy, Humanities Montana, Town Pump Foundation and the Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts.

The deadline for the 2020 issue is March 27. Find submission guidelines, as well as art and writing from the 2019 edition, at For more information, contact Mandy Maass


Photo: “Peacock Pride” by Brodi Niebaum, Power Schools




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