The Saint John Branch of the Women's Art Association of Canada began in the late 1890s in Saint John, New Brunswick. The members decided to form an independent association that included both men and women and as a result, the Saint John Art Club was formed on 12 November 1908. The new club's constitution stated the main object of the club was to be "The general advancement of fine arts and the promotion and facilitating of greater knowledge and love of art on the part of the public generally." It was also to provide art instruction for a fee by lecturers and teachers who would be paid for this work.
From its inception, the Saint John Art Club began acquiring objets d'art and paintings by well known Canadian, British and American artists. The artworks were either purchased with club funds or were donated by members. In 1914, there was a paid-up membership of between 200 and 300 people, many of whom had valuable collections of paintings.
The Saint John Art Club gathered paintings from individuals and societies both in New Brunswick and other provinces to make up exhibitions for their own enjoyment. These were hung at the studio on Peel Street, at the Art Club art school in the City Market building or at the Church of England Institute. They also hung travelling exhibitions from the National Gallery of Canada. The exhibitions were open to members and art students. In 1912, the Saint John Exhibition Association approached the Art Club to assist with creating an Art Department at the annual fall fair in Saint John.
The Art Club held regular monthly meetings and organized public lectures. The Club also was very involved in children's education in art. In 1944 and 1945, the Saint John Art Club advocated creative art as a subject in public schools and the following year, the first of several local children's art exhibitions was held. The Art Club proposed lending some of their pictures to school classes for instructional purposes. Children's art classes were held in the summer in a room at the Saint John Public Library and their work was shown in an exhibit at the local department store in 1955.
In 1949, their exhibition, 'Painters For Fun' for local amateur artists proved to be very popular and brought many new members into the Club. The Saint John Art Club, the oldest continuing art club in Canada, is still in existence. The club operates two galleries, one at Market Square in central Saint John and another in Parkway Mall in the eastern part of the city. The club offers instruction to both children and adults.