Established by Royal Charter in 1946, as the Welsh Arts Council (Welsh: Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru), its English name was changed to the Arts Council of Wales in 1994 (the Welsh name remained the same), when it merged with the three Welsh regional arts associations. It became accountable to the National Assembly for Wales on 1 July 1999, when responsibility was transferred from the Secretary of State for Wales. The Welsh Government provides ACW with money to fund the arts in Wales. ACW also distributes National Lottery funding for the arts in Wales, allocated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
As a registered charity, the Arts Council of Wales has a board of trustees who meet six times a year, chaired by Phil George, Apart from the Chair, Council members are not paid; they are appointed by the Welsh Government. The Arts Council of Wales has offices in Colwyn Bay, Carmarthen and Cardiff. Nick Capaldi has been its chief executive since 2008.