In 1984, a group of cartoon art enthusiasts began organizing exhibitions by using art work from their own collections. For several years, the Cartoon Art Museum was a "museum without walls," setting up shows in local museums and corporate spaces. In 1987, with an endowment from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, the museum established residence in the heart of San Francisco's new vibrant art center, Yerba Buena Gardens.
In the museum's 20-plus years of existence it has produced over 100 exhibitions and 20 publications, all focusing on the myriad of cartoon art. The museum's key function is to preserve, document, and exhibition this unique and accessible art form. Through traveling exhibitions and other exhibit related activities such as artist-in-residence/ lecture series programs and outreach activities, the museum has taken cartoon art and used it to communicate cultural diversity in the community and the importance of self expression.
The Cartoon Art Museum is the only museum in the western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art in all its forms. This unique institution houses approximately 6,000 original pieces in its permanent collection; a complete volume research/library facility is located on the museum's premises. In addition to seven major exhibitions a year, the museum has a classroom for cartoon art and a bookstore.