The idea of the Künstlerdorf was born in 1983, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Old Town Hall. Under the leadership of the then municipal director Hans Dillmann, the director of the adult education center, Dr. Claus Urban, as well as the then director of the literature office Düsseldorf, Rolfrafael Schröer, the wish was formulated for the first time to anchor a town clerk as well as a town artist in Schöppingen. In terms of content, this idea took up the tradition of the town clerk who, in the past as well as today, moved from place to place in order to write down the orally told and handed down story(s) of a community and to give a new perspective on the experienced reality through their contribution.
The founding idea coincided with the withdrawal of a NATO unit that had temporarily brought over a thousand Dutch and U.S. soldiers and their families to Schöppingen between 1963 and 1987. The idea of the Künstlerdorf, as an urban gem, took shape through the vacancy of the Schulze-Johann farm and the further purchase of the Schulze-Dorfkönig farm in the center of the Schöppingen community. The purchase and functional expansion of the farms was made possible by urban renewal funds from the state of NRW and funds from the municipality. At that time, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and its then Prime Minister Johannes Rau made a significant decision in terms of cultural policy to promote art and culture beyond the big cities, but with an impact beyond the state borders.
From 1989 to 1998, the Künstlerdorf Schöppingen was run by an association of the same name. The founders and members of this association were the Förderverein Künstlerdorf Schöppingen (founded on 27.9.1988), the municipality of Schöppingen, the district of Borken, the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung Naturschutz, Heimat- und Kulturpflege and the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe. Since 1998, the Künstlerdorf has been run by a foundation in which the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the NRW Foundation, the municipality of Schöppingen, the district of Borken, the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe and the Förderverein des Künstlerdorfes e.V. participate.
Representatives of these and other institutions are members of the executive board and foundation council. The chairwoman of the foundation board is Christina Rau, who has played a key role in the development of the Künstlerdorf since its beginnings.
The Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung owns the two farmsteads and makes them available to the Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen.
The grants are supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Kunststiftung NRW.
In the founding phase, Rolfrafael Schröer shaped the Künstlerdorf in terms of planning and conception and served as its first managing director from 1989 to 1997. He was followed, from 1997 to 2020, by Dr. Josef Spiegel. Since 2021, Julia Haarmann has been the managing director of the Künstlerdorf.