The history of the Minnesota Arts Board begins with the creation of the Minnesota State Art Society in 1903 (Laws 1903 Chap. 119). The society was created to advance the interests of the fine arts, to develop the influence of art in education, and to foster the introduction of art in manufactures. The society purchased works of art for the state, held an annual art exhibition, and prepared annual courses of lectures for schools and the public. The original governing board consisted of the governor, the president of the state university, and seven members appointed by the governor. At least four of the members were required to be artists or connoisseurs of art, one an architect, and one a person involved in education. They served for four year terms. In 1947 the board was enlarged by two members (Laws 1947 Chap. 237).
In 1963 the society's name was changed to the Minnesota State Arts Council (Laws 1963 Chap. 615). Its functions were changed only slightly: it was required to promote and encourage the performing and fine arts but was no longer charged with fostering the introduction of art in manufactures. The membership of the governing board remained at thirteen, with those appointed by the governor to be individuals well known for their competence in the fields of the performing and fine arts. This board was also authorized to acquire money or property by purchase, hire, gifts, or grants and could expend the funds in any way it determined to accomplish its goals. In 1974 the governor's position on the board was replaced by the lieutenant governor (Laws 1974 c294).
The Minnesota State Arts Board succeeded the Council in 1975 (Minn. Laws 1975 Chap. 297). As the state's official advocate for the arts, the board encourages new forms of artistic expression and works to preserve the state's artistic heritage. It provides consultant services, workshops, conferences, and publications to artists, art organizations, and schools. It sponsors grant programs including General Support, the McKnight Foundation Awards, Artists in Education, and Artist Assistance. It also works with the state Tourism Division to promote Minnesota arts to tourists.
The Board receives funding from the state legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, and private sources. It belongs to the Affiliated State Arts Agencies of the Upper Midwest, a private nonprofit corporation that helps to arrange and fund tours of art exhibitions, as well as theater, dance, film, and music performances in the region. Other member states are Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The state is also served by regional arts councils which encourage art activities at the local level. Regional offices are located in Crookston, Bemidji, Duluth, Fergus Falls, Staples, Marshall, Mora, St. Cloud, Mankato, Rochester, and St. Paul. (Source: Minnesota State Archives). Citizen advisory panels (Artist Assistance, Folk Arts, Operating Support) review grant applications and make funding recommendations to the board. Other citizens serve on a Cultural Pluralism Advisory Committee. (Source: News, Minnesota State Arts Board, 23 December 1992).
The 2013 Legislature amended the arts and cultural heritage fund statute, Minnesota Statutes, section 129D.17, to include a provision requiring 47 percent of the annual ACHF appropriation go to the Minnesota State Arts Board, making it the largest recipient of the ACHF. The State Arts Board has traditionally used 30 percent of the funding it receives to fund the regional arts councils located throughout Minnesota to provide arts programming and education in each region of the state. There are 11 regional arts councils that encompass the entire state of Minnesota.