Performing Arts began at MWPAI in 1937 when Abigail Camp Dimon, first cousin once removed of founder Maria Proctor, was appointed secretary to the Board of Trustees and was granted $5,000 to present evening entertainment featuring local musicians in the Thomas R. Proctor home, 312 Genesee St.

In 1957, MWPAI assumed control of The Great Artists Series, founded in 1932 by Roland Chesley. Performances were held between movie dates at the Stanley-Warner Theater, now the Stanley Theater. Performers included Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Artur Rubinstein, Van Cliburn Leontyne Price, James Galway, Metropolitan Opera, Ballet Russe de Montreal, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Chicago with the Utica Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, the MWPAI made the painful decision to discontinue this long-running series and focus on the concerts and other performing arts events held in the Institute’s Museum of Art Auditorium and Edward Wales Root Sculpture Court.

In 1962, Bruce Barbour was appointed Coordinator of Performing Arts to oversee recitals, music lectures, and films in the new Museum of Art Auditorium.

Several performance series were later introduced, including CenterStage in 1978, For Kids Only (later For Kids and Families) in 1985, Concerts in the Court and Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations in 1994.

Today, the Performing Arts continue to thrive with an annual attendance of 25,000.