Art is a man's expression of his joy in labor. That's what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said. Munson-Williams-Proctor arts institute can be traced back to Alfred Munson, a former Utica businessman. But it was his daughter Helen Munson Williams that became a prolific collector of decorative and fine arts. Anna D'ambrosio, Director and Chief Curator of Museum of Arts says, "Helen was quiet a philanthropists and she gave to lots of causes in the community. She made sure that her daughters as they were growing up did likewise and they even always set aside some of their allowance to go some charity in the community."
Helen and her husband James had three daughters. Grace passed away at the young of seven. Rachel and Maria, the other daughters, married Frederick and Thomas Proctor. She added, "They were very active in the community, always giving back to Utica and it's surrounding areas. And they also traveled extensively and continued to collect. Something that they also inherited, that collecting bug from their mother Helen."
Frederick and Rachel lived in fountain elms for twenty-one years until Rachel's death in 1915. Then Maria, her husband and his brother drafted their concept of community cultural organizations. And in 1919 the institute was chartered as an artistic musical and social center. "The family always had the idea that the institute would always be multifaceted, that it would be more than just a museum of arts, but we would teach classes, have a music program involved in the institute as well."
In 19-36, just a few months after Mariah's death, Munson-Willliams-Proctor Institute opened to the public. Had Rachel or Maria had heirs to their fortune, the art presence in Utica may have been different. "There were no heirs from Rachel and Maria's marriages and so that could've been very different outcome for this community. I mean who's to say what would've happened but it could've been very different."
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.