The Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation was organized and incorporated under provisions of the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act in February 1961 by H. J. Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda Childers Stark. It was to be operated exclusively for public charitable and educational purposes in the state of Texas. After its organization, foundation activities were limited to continued support for programs previously supported by the Starks. Upon Stark's death in 1965, the Stark Foundation received funds and assets from his estate, including almost all the art collection the Starks had assembled. Under the direction of Mrs. Stark, the foundation employed architects to develop plans for a museum building. This project grew into a master plan for a civic and cultural center in Orange, Texas, which included the establishment of the Stark Museum of Art and the Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts, the restoration of the W. H. Stark House, and construction of Stark Park, a one-block-square, landscaped park, which is the focal point of the Cultural Center. All these projects were to be built by the Stark Foundation to replace the deteriorating downtown area.
The foundation completed construction of the Stark Museum of Art and opened it to the public on November 29, 1978. Restoration of the W. H. Stark House began in 1975 and was completed in 1980, after which it was opened to the public for guided tours. The Frances Ann Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts was built by the foundation between 1976 and 1980. Architects designed a structure suitable for a broad range of performing arts, including dramas and musicals. After donating the Lutcher Theater to the city, the foundation provided additional grant money to support programming and performances. Having completed its initial construction projects, the foundation turned to operating grants for the Stark Museum of Art and the W. H. Stark House and continued acquisitions to enhance the art collection of the museum. Other interests include education, the performing arts, and historical restorations. A scholarship program funded by the Stark Foundation and administered by the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation seeks to encourage gifted Texas students to attend Texas colleges and universities. Ten four-year scholarships are granted each year through this program. The foundation is administered by a board of trustees from which its officers are elected, and foundation activities are financed by income from investments.