Cliff Fannin Baker
9/13/1947 – 9/6/2018

Artistic Director 2008-2013

Wildwood Park for the Arts

Wildwood Park’s staff, artists and Board of Directors gratefully celebrate the life of visionary Cliff Fannin Baker, who died September 6, 2018.

“The great value of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”

– James Truslow Adams

By way of Missouri, California, the Arkansas Arts Center, what was formerly known as Hunter Memorial Methodist Church (and then Arkansas Repertory Theatre and now Bylites), The Rep at 6th & Main, and other places known and unknown, Cliff Fannin Baker arrived at Wildwood Park in mid-2007 to stay awhile.

Cliff founded Arkansas Repertory Theatre in the mid-1970s, directing diverse theatrical seasons (including dozens of world premieres) in Little Rock and across the nation. In 1999 he passed the torch to new Rep leadership and joined Goss-Reid Associates in providing transformational coaching in the Americas and Europe.

In 2008, Wildwood’s Board of Directors engaged Cliff to help re-invent the Park. He flung open the gates, and Wildwood is open almost every day of the year, welcoming the public with no charge for admission to enjoy the gardens and trails. With a small team and a throng of volunteers, Cliff transformed Cabe Festival Theatre and nearly half of Wildwood’s 100 acres – Butler Arboretum, the early stages of the Asian Woodland Garden among them – into a creative, cultural playground accessible to all. Ellie, his dog, was a frequent companion on the trails and in the gardens.

HARVEST! set the tone for other autumnal festivals throughout the City. The LANTERNS! Festival, anchored in Chinese traditions and approaching its 11th year in 2019, continues to capture the imagination of visitors from across Arkansas and neighboring states. From live entertainment to lighted structures and fare for the whole family, the festival features multiple cultures each year.

Among productions he directed on the Cabe Festival Theatre stage were The Medium, Stephen Koch’s JUMP! starring Lawrence Hamilton, Arkansas Rep’s production of The Elephant Man during that theatre’s renovation, as well as Leading Ladies and two more original productions that toured to schools across Arkansas. He welcomed The Band’s Levon Helm and hundreds of festival performers to the Park.

Healing from surgery, Cliff continued coaching after he left Wildwood and in 2018 returned to Arkansas Repertory Theatre in an advisory role. He was coaching in New York City when his body collapsed.

Cliff’s passion, personality, quick wit and keen artistic vision positively impacted hundreds of thousands people around the globe, from the small rural community to bustling Beijing, China. When he wasn’t traveling, he was at the farm with his husband, Guy, and their pets.

He is missed.

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