Art is on State Highway 29 seven miles east of Mason in eastern Mason County. One of the first settlements in the county, it began around 1856 when five German families settled along upper Willow Creek. Later, German settlers from Fredericksburg established themselves on either side of the creek for about ten miles in both directions. The early community, originally called Willow Creek (or Upper Willow Creek) Settlement, suffered from numerous Indian raids, although nearby Fort Mason offered some protection. Provisions were scarce, and many were forced to get supplies from Fredericksburg.
Most of the early settlers were Methodists. The first church, a log building that doubled as a schoolhouse, was built on the east side of Willow Creek in 1858. It was part of a group of churches, known as the Llano Charge, served by the pioneer missionary Rev. Charles A. Grote. This building was replaced by a stone structure in 1875, and a third church was built in 1890 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The first schools were conducted at home or at a neighbor's house. Eventually, early teachers traveled from community to community. Otto von Donop was probably Willow Creek Settlement's first permanent teacher. The log church was used as the schoolhouse until 1890, when the new church was built. Classes were then held in the old stone church until 1945, when all rural schools in the county were consolidated with the Mason schools.
J. A. Hoerster opened a general merchandise store, one of the town's first, in 1883. Otto Plehwe bought him out in 1885, established a post office in the store in 1886, and became the first postmaster. At that time Plehwe renamed the town Plehweville, but the post office department eventually asked that the name be changed, as the difficulty of spelling it was causing mail to be lost. On December 23, 1920, Eli Dechart, who was then store owner and postmaster, named the town Art after the last three letters of his name.
Throughout most of its history, Art has been primarily a ranching community. As of 1947 the town had a combination general store and post office, a feed store, and a filling station. The population remained steady at twenty-five from 1925 to 1967 and rose to forty-six in 1968. From 1974 until the 1980s the Texas Almanac listed the population as thirty. The post office still existed in 1985, and the store-post office building was being used by the Art Community Club. In 1990 and 2000 the population was eighteen.