The history of the organization is long and storied. WVA is the oldest juried member art organization in Wisconsin. Founded in October of 1900, the association was formed by a group of painters and sculptors who met in Louis Mayer's Milwaukee studio and was originally called the Society of Milwaukee Artists. That group of men and women met and exhibited more or less steadily from that time until 1913, when the name was changed to Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors aka WP&S/WAAM. In 2008 the name of the organization was changed to WVA The first gallery room to be granted the newly formed artist group was the former Literature Room of the Milwaukee Public Library. The use of the room, free of any hindering requirements and even with the appropriation of $50 to prepare it adequately for art gallery purposes, was granted to the Society by the head librarian, Mr. Peckham.

During the first years the organization showed the work of members in various others places, including the old Exposition Building, and at one time in the Chicago Art Institute at the invitation of Mr. French. The membership included such artists as: Louis Mayer, George Peters, Richard Lorenz, Alexander Mueller, Jessie Schley, Charles Sprinkman, Mrs. H. John Heinzen, Fritz Kerl, Harold Hall, Frank Enders, Conrad Hevd, George Niedecken, and J. Ferry. Of equal importance in many ways were the circulating picture groups routed through various cities of the state for the first time, in the large department stores, and in the city high schools; a practice which probably had something to do with starting the Milwaukee Journal's Purchase award for a painting to become the property of the Milwaukee Public Schools.

From 1900 to the present time all the better known artists of Wisconsin have been listed on the membership rolls of the organization. The statewide membership presently has 491 members representing all forms of the visual arts. The benefits of membership in this statewide organization of artists are a subscription to Wisconsin Visual Artists Magazine, opportunities to enter juried WVA chapter and statewide exhibitions; programs of value to artists presented at chapter meetings; and opportunities to meet other artists and those who give support to artists. There are five categories of membership: Professional, Associate, Student, Supporting, and Gallery. An on-line membership application is available for those who wish to join now.