Ella Fountain Pratt, diminutive grande dame of Durham arts for more than 50 years, died Monday following an illness. She was 94.
“Ella Fountain was truly a giant,” city council member Mike Woodard said, “though she stood barely five feet tall.”
In 1956, Mrs. Pratt went to work for Duke University, where she worked with student arts organizations and ran a performance series that brought internationally famous orchestras, soloists and dance troupes to the university.
Durham Arts Council directors Jim McIntyre and Michael Marsicano were among her student proteges.
Retiring from Duke in 1984, she began her own long assiciation with the arts council, production its first “street opera” at Brightleaf Square in 1985. She also initiated its “Emerging Artists” grant program and managed it as a volunteer until recently.
“We are forever grateful for her example of passion and devotion to the arts. ... her love for excellence and beauty,” arts council director Sherry DeVries said in a prepared statement.
“Her spirit, enthusiasm and sparkle brightened our lives,” DeVries said.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.