Its origin goes all the way back to the spring of 1971 when it was known as the Westheimer Colony Association. A collective effort of Lower Westheimer businesses formed an arts/crafts gathering as part of a beautification of Lower Westheimer where the Westheimer Colony Art Festival was born. A couple of years later in 1973, a collective street fair evolved around the grounds of the art festival which would later become the Westheimer Street Festival.
At some point in the late 1980s, the Westheimer Colony Art Festival decided to distance itself from the growing street festival until late 1992. This turning point led to the festival held outside the Montrose in April 1993. Because of the new venue, both the producing entity and ensuing festival changed their names respectively. Since 1995, the Westheimer Colony Association dropped the 'Westheimer' name since the festival was no longer a Montrose tradition, and the name Art Colony Association took its place. To follow the name change of the producing company, the 'Westheimer' name was also dropped from the official title and the current name was used since March 1997.
To Houstonians, the Bayou City Art Festival, which had its origins as the Westheimer Colony Art Festival, has grown out of its Montrose roots to become a citywide gathering.
When the Westheimer Art Festival was held on a stretch of Calhoun Street (St. Joseph Parkway) between 1993-96, both the spring and fall festivals were located across the present-day METRO Administration Building until the mid-1990s where the streets surrounding Houston City Hall were used for the fall festival dates. Since 2005, Sam Houston Park was used for the fall festivals in response to the reconstruction of Smith Street.
During June 2005 a revival of the former Westheimer Colony Art Festival took place during Gay Pride Weekend 2005 - the revived art gathering was known as the Westheimer Arts Festival (the pluralization of the word came from the informal reference of the Westheimer Colony Art Festival by festivalgoers - this festival has no relationship with the Bayou City Art Festival promoters). This also holds true for the latest incarnation of the former Westheimer Street Festival initially as WestFest Compressed, which evolved into the Westheimer Block Party, organized by staff members of the Free Press Houston.