On November 20, 1990, the St. George Art Museum opened in its original location in the newly renovated lower level of the City office building. The space was created to house and display a collection of art belonging to Danny and Eugene Ferrante who had recently moved to St. George. The authenticity of the collection by art masters, such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Degas to name a few, could not be verified but Mayor Karl Brooks and City Attorney Ted Shumway felt the pieces had artistic merit that warranted display. Artist and educator Glen Blakley, the Museum’s first director, oversaw the opening which showcased the Ferrante collection. Over the next 2 years the Museum displayed a variety of exhibits including Milton Goldstein, Minerva Teichert, Robert Shepherd and Farrell Collett. In 1992, the Ferrante brothers chose to remove their collection, but the Museum continued to thrive.
In the meantime, a valuable site in St. George's historic district was rapidly deteriorating and was being considered for demolition. The property’s history dates to the 1930’s when the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, after determining that sugar beet seed was a good cash crop, purchased the pioneer-era Opera House and built three warehouses on the site. Warehouse No. 3, now the St. George Art Museum, was used to store the sugar beet seeds until the sugar company closed in 1979. The building stood vacant until it became a city project for restoration.
Only the vision, generosity, and hard work of the community and city officials would be able to save the building that is now the Art Museum. In 1996, Washington County Statehood Centennial Committee recruited 12 artists and 12 historians to create Legacy, a visual and written presentation of the early history of the area. The proceeds were earmarked to make the dream of an Art Museum a reality and the original paintings became part of the Permanent Collection. On January 15, 1997 the new Art Museum opened with the exhibit Counterpoint and Meditation – A Contemporary Interpretation of Utah Wetlands by Robert Marshall along with the Legacy paintings and selected pieces from the Museum’s 165-piece Permanent Collection.
The first 10 years in the new Art Museum brought visitors to exhibits as diverse as Art of the Soviet Republics and Oklahoma City Children’s Memorial Quilts. The Regional an annual juried show to explore the work of artists in the area was staged in consecutive years until 2006. Grant Speed’s bronze Wild West sculptures and the Art of Animation were among the many exhibits mounted that first decade.
The Zion Centennial exhibit, which ran from August 25, 2008 through January 31, 2009, included seventy-four historic paintings and photographs tracing the history of art in Zion.
Many more important and memorable exhibits have followed, including A Tribute to Jim Jones (1933-2009), a moving 2010 exhibit that included some of the artist’s last works. The massive paintings by Charles Becker, Into the Mysteries of the Super Real, was on display for five months in 2011. The 2013 exhibit Quilts: Re-Imagined by the Painted Hills Fiber Artist Group and Here Comes the Gown – 150 Years of Wedding Dresses on display from December 12, 2014 through May 9, 2015 remain a couple of the museum's most popular exhibits of all time.