In 1982, facing a severe funding crisis, an ad-hoc committee of thirteen arts organizations, known as the 1984 Committee, joined forces to secure from the provincial government a stable funding base for professional arts organizations, and also a cultural policy. In February 1983, shedding its ad hoc status, the 1984 Committee became an independent body named the Saskatchewan Conference of the Arts. In May 1984, the Conference was renamed the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) and in 1986, it formally registered as a non-profit corporation.

Initially, SAA articulated the concerns of Saskatchewan's professional artists and arts groups. In response to provincial restructuring of the cultural community, SAA expanded its mandate in 1995 to embrace all parts of the arts community encompassed within SaskCulture (formerly the Saskatchewan Council of Cultural Organizations) and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. This enabled the SAA to provide a common forum for the province's entire arts community.