Americans for the Arts was founded in 1996 as a result of the merger between the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (NALAA) and the American Council for the Arts (ACA). In 2005, they further merged with Arts & Business Council Inc. The President and CEO is Robert L. Lynch.
The organization maintains an Online Arts Field Directory of local, state, regional, and national arts service organizations throughout the country.
Annually, the organization presents the National Arts Awards to honor artists and supporters of the arts who exemplify high achievement in the arts and national leadership.
Americans for the Arts hosts an annual convention for about 1400 attendees. Major topic areas include arts education, public art, community and economic development, public advocacy, and private sector affairs, which includes topics related to philanthropy and business. In 2009, the Convention will be hosted in Seattle, WA on the topic of The Arts in Sustainable Communities
In 2008, Americans for the Arts launched a webinar series to offer professional development opportunities to arts and arts education professionals nationally. Topics include program evaluation for arts education, leadership succession, models of rural development, and "leadership in tough times."
Also in 2008, the organization launched Knowledge Exchanges, 2 day in-depth trainings and dialogues about specific topics within the organization's areas of expertise.