The idea of establishing an art center in downtown Sterling began in 2007 with six people brainstorming around a kitchen table. The original plan for an art center was later expanded to include a community center.
The group's first fundraiser was a Sloppy Joe Supper, which netted $300. Over the next year, the Studio 96 Board raised enough to purchase the old Ben Franklin building at public auction for $22,000.
In 2008, Studio 96 won a Small Community Improvement Program Grant worth $125,000 and, in 2009, won a Kan-Step Grant worth $300,000. Clelia McCrory has served as grant administrator for Studio 96.
All the renovations were accomplished with volunteer labor. Workers logged over $400,000 worth of labor with the Kansas Department of Commerce. fundraising, membership drives, donations and memorials provided funds for the $900,000 renovated building.