The Montana Performing Arts Consortium (MPAC) incorporated in November, 1982, and achieved its 501(c)3 status the following year. During its first 10 years, MPAC coordinated over 50 tours of performing arts events and saved presenters over $1 million through reduced fees for block-booked events. This savings increased the number of events presenters offered and stimulated audience growth for their communities. During these early years MPAC leadership influenced the creation of 12 new performing arts subscription series and prioritized Montana performing artists’ development and growth alongside that of presenter development. In spring of 1984, MPAC held the first annual Montana Performing Artists Showcase and Block-booking Conference. The conference later expanded to include education workshops for artists and presenters.
In 1985, the consortium orchestrated the state's blockbuster tour of the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of the play "Quilters." Due to the organizational and fundraising efforts of MPAC, an unprecedented thirteen communities were able to participate. Since that time, MPAC has block-booked such performers as B.B. King, Turtle Island String Quartet, John Houseman's The Acting Company, California E.A.R. Unit, the Kronos Quartet, Phillip Glass, Wynton Marsalis, Merce Cunningham, and dozens more. Since the first live showcase in 1983, at least six different MPAC showcase artists have gone on to receive either a Grammy nomination or win a Grammy Award.
Recognizing the need for further development and support of rural and emerging presenters, MPAC began the Presenter Development program in 1987. This program was designed to help small organizations develop their performing arts series, upgrade artistic quality, and create artist outreach programs in their underserved rural communities. In 1991, MPAC successfully applied for a two-year national model pilot project grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Presenting and Commissioning Program to study the effect of federal funding on rural series programming. The result of this study was that MPAC’s Presenter Development Program served as the model for (and became 1 of 6 original participants in) the NEA’s Rural and Inner City Re-grant Initiative.
MPAC continues to assist the development of rural and emerging presenters through the Presenter Development program. Since 1987, MPAC has awarded more than $295,000 in fee support to emerging and established rural presenters, primarily with funds from Montana’s Cultural Trust and the Montana Arts Council. What’s more, through a 2009 federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, with competitive “shovel-ready” rural projects, MPAC fully-funded all FY2010 Presenter Development applications—the first and only time in its history.