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Cliff Fannin Baker, who founded the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and is credited with putting the company and the city’s arts scene on the national map, died on Thursday. He was 70.

As the Rep’s producing artistic director from its beginnings in 1976 until he stepped down in 1999, Baker built the company into a well-regarded, Actors’ Equity-certified organization that toured nationally. Because of the Rep’s acclaim, former colleagues say, Baker elevated the profile of Arkansas as a place that can support cultural institutions.

Baker’s husband, Guy Couch, posted on Facebook early Thursday that Baker died after suffering an aneurysm days earlier.

Baker had been serving as interim artistic director for the theater after it suspended operations in April and canceled the remaining 2017-18 shows. The Rep announced last month that it had raised enough funds to begin planning to resume operations in January.

During his career, Baker directed more than 200 productions around the world and was recognized with a number of honors including the 1999 Arts Council Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Individual Artist.

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