Montana’s Talented Youth

A friend called today to say she’d been to see the Student Art Exhibit in the State Capitol Rotunda, which we’d helped Lt. Governor Bohlinger arrange for National Arts and Humanities Month.

She mentioned one poem in particular that had struck her, and how she’ll remember it for a long time to come. I thought I should share it.

Bringing Summer to an End

The moon’s gate swings wide.
A woman steps between the open doors,
leaves falling, orange and red, at her bare feet.
Hair white as rabbit’s fur wraps her.
She reaches toward the Earth,
fingertips swirling the clouds below.
here breath chills the ground as the sky
fills with icy flakes, each a crafted star,
a gift from the moon.
Her lips, blue and frozen,
kiss the lakes and ponds.
Frost crawls across the waters.
Snow covers the mountains.

James Keller
Big Sky High School, Missoula, Grade 12

I realize I can’t share all of the poetry and the artwork
from: Signatures From the Big Sky 2010,

or the amazing array of work from local Helena schools, but I hope this small representative collection of the talent of Montana’s youth will inspire each of you to visit the rotunda before the end of October.

I offer a big thanks to all the students, teachers, parents, and schools that participated in arts and literature projects over the past year. I’d also like to thank Pearl Pallister for her artistic hand in the exhibit, Brian and Stefanie Flynn for the design and construction of the portable display units, and General Services Administration for the loan of easels and some heavy-lifting.
Montana’s Talented Youth


. . . So It Begins . . .


In July, a friend asked if we, as a neighborhood, might form at least a temporary book club in order to participate in our Lewis & Clark Library’s program, and so the Quarry Hill Book Club was formed. The packet arrived on my doorstep just a few weeks ago. The colorful cover with its portraits of Sam Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy invited me inside to begin their story. The materials also included a calendar of events, which will be occurring in my community over the next months, and a guide for our discussions. Julie and Sandi, who had a jump on the rest of us for the reading are already bantering about the liverwurst sandwiches being served at our first official gathering in our frequent emails to discuss details and dangle encouragements in front of one another. This meal must be from some future scene in the book.
I contacted Arts Midwest, the arts organization in Minneapolis charged with helping in our region, to learn what other libraries in Montana are also reading. Libby, Kalispell, Missoula, along with Helena, Montana have also been selected to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts grant.

I started in with the rich language crafted by Dashiell Hammett, and soon found myself more than just delighted by the dynamic of a well-written detective novel. I found myself also jotting down words, the ones I didn’t entirely recognize, passages artfully-designed, and challenges to my notion of character development and even punctuation. I used the calendar of events for this note-taking.

“Where Bush Street roofed Stockton before slipping downhill to Chinatown, Spade paid his fare and left the taxicab. San Francisco’s night-fog, thin, clammy, and penetrant, blurred the street. A few yards from where Spade had dismissed the taxicab a small group of men stood looking up an alley. . .”

I’m now a bit further into the novel, and the first page of the brochure is covered in my tiny scrawl. Of the words, which I want to look up, and do more than find their meaning in context —here is just a taste:
• penetrant, page 12
• “. . .you birds cracking foxy. . .” page 21
• lief, page 30
• “. . .a blue shade called Artoise that season.” page 54
• appurtenances, page 62

“Creating a Nation of Readers”
The Big Read

. . .
inspiring people across the country to pick up a good book. Listen to radio programs, watch video profiles, and read brief essays about classic authors.

The Big Read
The Big Read provides citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. To support innovative reading programs in selected cities and towns, the initiative provides grants, comprehensive resources, and support for reading and discussing literature.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It was created in response to Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a report issued in July 2004 by the National Endowment for the Arts that identified critical issues facing literary reading. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

For information about participating communities, featured books, and more, visit or email, or visit:

I’ve missed the Lewis & Clark Library’s first event. Don Herron led audiences on a “virtual travel” expedition over “the fog-shrouded hills stalked by Sam Spade,” and lectured on Hammet’s San Francisco, Thursday, October 7th, while I was attending the always engaging Montana’s Museum & Art Gallery Director’s Association Conference in Pray, Montana, and where I learned that Missoula readers would watch the [2006] detective documentary: STOLEN. This is, according to Missoula Art Museum’s, Stephen Glueckert, Curator of Exhibitions, about the 1990 art heist in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Discover more at More information on MAGDA:

This weekend, I’ll read a bit more, and I’ll be checking in with the Quarry Hill Book Club’s emailing social network to see how the lecture went. Meanwhile, I have broken out the atlas and maps to look up Bush, Geary, and Stockton Streets in San Francisco. I’ll also check my closet for my vintage cocktail dress, and try to imagine the City by the Bay in 1929. KBH