The first steps towards an initiative aiming on the support and facilitation of cultural cooperation around the Baltic Sea was taken in 1989/ 1990 in Schleswig-Holstein/ northern Germany. In 1991, ARS BALTICA became visible with its first project, the today well-established JazzBaltica. The artistic director of the festival was and still is Mr. Rainer Haarmann who chaired the ARS BALTICA Organising Committer until October 1999. Also the Secretariat of the initaitive was based in Kiel, the capital of Schleswig-Holstein, until 1999.
At the 19th ARS BALTICA Organising Committee Meeting in Stockholm, a new ARS BALTICA structure was adopted according to a joint Estonian-Finnish proposal, whereby the Secretariat will be moved by rotation from one ARS BALTICA member country to another for extendible three-year periods. The Chairman will be elected for an extendible one-year period. At the above-mentioned meeting in Stockholm, Mr. Risto Ruohonen (Finland) was elected as the new Chairman for 2000 and Estonia (Ministry of Culture) was to host the Secretariat from 2000 to 2002 (the period has been extended until the end of 2003), whereas Ms. Eike Eller, Civil Servant of the Ministry, was appointed as a part-time assistant co-ordinator for the same period.
In December 2001, Mr. Ruohonen's Chairmanship came to the end and Ms. Gudrun Vahlquist (Sweden) was elected as the Chairperson for 2002. At the 25th Committee Meeting her mandate was extended for 2003.
The following year, a representative of Lithuania, Mr. Rolandas Kvietkauskas (Under-secretary of State in the Ministry of Culture) was elected for the position of ARS BALTICA Chairman. His mandate was prolonged till the end of 2006.
In 2004, the Secretariat moved from Tallinn to Gdansk (Poland) where it was hosted by the Baltic Sea Cultural Centre till the end of 2009 (by the decision of the 33rd ARS BALTICA Organising Committee Meeting).
In 2007 Mr. Krzysztof Olendzki (Under-secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage) became ARS BALTICA Chairman.
In 2009, Mr. Gert Haack (head of section in the State Chancellery of the Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein/ Germany) has taken over the Chairmanship. According to a decision taken by the ARS BALTICA Organising Committee at its 39th meeting in Salzau/ northern Germany in September 2010, the ARS BALTICA Chair is now nominated in accordance with the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). Since Germany has taken over the Presidency in July 2011, ARS BALTICA is chaired by Germany until summer 2012.
In line with ARS BALTICA's new strategy of living a network of networks that strongly focuses on the project level the Chairmanship was handed over to Mr. Guido Froese, managing director of the cultural institution Nordkolleg Rendsburg which hosts the ARS BALTICA Secretariat, in September 2011.
"The ARS BALTICA network has played an important role in developing a vibrant cultural co-operation among creative people around the Baltic Sea and has successfully branded regional cultural events." (Riga Declaration 2008)