In the 1970s and ‘80s, the Whitney opened several branch locations in Lower Manhattan, Midtown, and Stamford, Connecticut. In the 1980s, the performing arts program migrated from the Breuer Building to the longest running of the branches, the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris Companies) on 42nd Street, directly across from Grand Central Station.
In the hundreds of performances that took place at Whitney at Altria, artists working in music, dance, performance art, theater, and the realms in between, produced large-scale, fully staged work. Located at a dense urban intersection, the glass-enclosed public space, essentially the lobby of a corporate office building, encouraged interaction with passers-by, tourists, and commuters during both rehearsals and performances.
For the length of its existence, Performance on 42nd assumed a significant presence in the New York City performing arts landscape. Performances were free of charge and featured emerging artists, multidisciplinary programs and many new and commissioned works and works-in-progress. A short list of performers includes Joan Jonas, John Zorn, Olu Dara and the Okra Orchestra, Wendy Perron Dance Company, The Wooster Group, Christian Marclay, Savion Glover, DJ Olive, Stephen Vitiello, Dean Moss, Ethel, Cynthia Hopkins, Lisa D’Amour & Katie Pearl, Todd Reynolds, Phil Kline, Liza Jessie Peterson, nicholasleichterdance, Praxis Studio, and Judith Sanchez Ruiz.
The Altria branch closed in January 2008 after twenty-five years in operation. The final performance, on May 4, 2007, featured Electric Kompany, Margaret Lancaster, the Meehan-Perkins Percussion Duo, and Kathleen Supove as part of a three-day festival of work by Dutch composer JacobTV.