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  • Emily Wolfram

MPAC in the 80's

The success of the first conference in 1984 benefited many arts professionals. Montana artists had more performance opportunities via showcase exposure. The Montana Arts Council had an avenue for working more closely with presenters. Out-of-state acts were more accessible and out-of-state artist agents started noticing the Montana market more. MPAC also played a large role in starting 4 small performance series: Northern Montana College, Havre; Choteau Performing Arts League; Jailhouse Gallery, Hardin; and the Lewiston Art Center/Judith Cultural Committee, Hobson.


1985

MPAC’s second booking conference was held from January 31 to February 1, 1985 in Helena.

It was held in conjunction with the Governor’s Award Ceremony for the Arts at the Helena Civic Center.

(From 1986 conference materials)

“...[In] Spring 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.


MPAC [conducted] technical assistance workshops which covered such topics as performing arts subscription series, contracts, programming, marketing, budgeting, fundraising and other technical aspects of presenting performances.”


Following the winter 1985 conference, MPAC published the first Montana Performing Artists Catalog. This booklet included 30 professional touring companies and artists and included a “unique” listings section where equipment, actors, costume-makers, technicians, playwrights, facilities, and other resources were listed. The purpose was to help Montana communities share limited resources.

(From 1986 conference materials)

"In [the same fall of 1985] MPAC launched a two year program to develop three new performing arts series in Montana. That program [included] sending consultants to rural communities to work on programming, fundraising, technical aspects, contracts, etc. with emerging sponsors. In addition, MPAC [began to provide] travel stipends for new sponsors to attend the annual showcase and conference."


1986

The third MPAC conference was held February 7-8, 1986 at MSU Bozeman. 21 artists showcased at Reynolds Recital Hall on campus.


1987

The 4th conference was held January 30 to February 1 in Helena at the Civic Center and Second Story Cinema (now the Myrna Loy). It was again held in conjunction with the Governor’s Awards for the Arts Ceremony.


MPAC introduced a fee support program for sponsors (presenters). The program was funded by the Montana Arts Council’s Coal Tax grant and its purpose was to develop or strengthen already existing performing arts series’ through fee support. This MPAC program still exists today as the Presenter Development Program.



1988

The 5th annual conference was held February 26-28, 1988 at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings. The showcase included 22 artist performances. A majority of showcasing artists were based in Montana. At this time MPAC also had a tour-coordinator role and was responsible for organizing block-booking for larger, out-of-state acts like Wynton Marsalis, Ballet West, and the New York Chamber Soloists.


MPAC’s fee support program continued operating under the name “Quick Grants”.


1989

The 6th annual conference was held February 4-5, 1989 in Helena during Montana’s “Week of the Arts”.


MPAC issued the second Performing Artist’s Catalog—remember we didn’t have the internet yet so this was an important resource to presenters. One of the artists included in the “showcase” section was the duo Rob Quist and Jack Gladstone, both Montana artists who were honored with the Goverenor's Arts Award. Jack Gladstone received the award in 2016 and Rob Quist received it this past December 2022!


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