The Museum was founded in 1981 and was located in the historic 1868 Quartermaster Building at Fort Concho National Historic Landmark. It opened in 1985 with exhibits from the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress. The Museum has since held over 350 exhibits. Over 150 have featured Texas artists, half of which have been women and 1/3 minority. The overall exhibit program encompasses all mediums, cultures and time periods. Ceramics Monthly has cited the Museums’ biannual National Ceramic Competition as “the premier clay show in America.”
In 1992 and 2005 the Museum received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce. In 1995 the Museum was awarded The National Community Service Award from the American Institute of Architects. In 2003 the Museum received the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the country’s highest honor for museums, and in 2011 we received the Award of Excellence in Museums from the Texas Historical Commission.
The Museum’s audience in West Texas covers 18 counties. The population is 194,000 (15% rural) with San Angelo as the major trade center. San Angelo's population is 89,000 while most of the smaller surrounding towns have populations of 1,000-3,000. The nearest major metropolitan area is San Antonio located 230 miles away. Education programs are done in close collaboration with the local and outlying school districts. Up to 50% of children in the school district come to the Museum annually.
The Museum has an intense interest in the community manifested in exhibits held every five years beginning in 1985, called Visions and Choices. These exhibits allow everyone in the community to show their ideas for the community’s future. Many of the ideas have become tangible and resulted in massive efforts of preservation and renewal.
The Museum has a rapidly growing collection with 800 works of contemporary ceramics. There are also historical ceramic works from Asia and more than 60 contemporary paintings and sculpture by Texas artists. The collection includes over 100 major works of Spanish Colonial and Mexican religious art. The Museum has lent extensively to other museums in Texas.
$8,000,000 was raised for a new building which opened in 1999 and has received international acclaim. The Museum is implementing a new strategic plan, restoring older buildings that it owns for community use, and is currently leading the development of a TCA-designated 200-acre Cultural District.