The capitol art foundation was created in 1992 in response to senate and house memorials passed by the legislature requesting the Legislative Council Service and the capitol art selection committee to establish a nonprofit foundation to assist in the acquisition of art for exhibit in the state capitol. The legislative council approves the membership of the foundation based on recommendations from the foundation board.

The mission of the capitol art foundation is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret works of art by New Mexico artists and other relevant works of art that reflect the rich and varied history, cultures and art forms of the state. The capitol art foundation also promotes public appreciation and understanding of the art, history and culture of New Mexico by exhibiting art and artifacts of historical or cultural significance in temporary exhibitions at the capitol. The capitol art foundation is committed to public education programs that address the needs of a diverse audience and seeks to promote goodwill and understanding through its programs.

The capitol art collection was established with the purchase of 14 works of art and 17 art furniture groupings, using funds set aside during renovation of the capitol for the purchase of art under the state's one percent for the arts program. Subsequent acquisitions of art for the collection have been purchased with proceeds from fundraising activities and charitable donations to the foundation. Funds are needed for framing, securing installations (to protect the works from damage and theft), routine maintenance, occasional conservation and restoration, associated administrative costs and the development and publication of educational materials to accompany the art, which is installed permanently in public areas of the capitol.

As the central mission of the capitol art foundation, acquiring art for the collection is an ongoing project. The executive director/curator works with arts organizations, artists and art collectors throughout the state and region and the appropriate committees of the capitol art foundation to identify suitable works of art for the collection. Once a work of art is acquired, through purchase or gift, suitable framing or other preparation and installation occurs as soon as possible in fulfillment of the foundation's mission and its responsibilities to donors. The more than 100,000 people who visit the capitol each year see, under one roof, a collection of art that reflects the wide aesthetic, cultural and technical diversity and virtuosity that is New Mexico art.

The missions of the capitol art foundation and New Mexico's art and folk art museums, while different, are complementary. Recognizing that New Mexico's art organizations can most benefit one another and the public by cooperating and sharing resources, many museum and art professionals from throughout the state serve on the capitol art foundation board of directors and on its various committees. Several projects and programs developed jointly by the foundation and other arts organizations have occurred and more are planned. The capitol art foundation with its unique, highly visible mission, and the capitol art collection have become welcome additions to New Mexico's arts community.

In fulfillment of its mission, the foundation developed a five-year plan that began on July 1, 1993. This plan addressed all aspects of the foundation's large mission and day-to-day operation, and was developed with the interests of a wide public foremost at all times. The foundation continues to update and implement its plans for the capitol art collection.