Peter F. Donnelly, one of the most important figures in Seattle's arts community over the past 45 years, died Saturday after complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 70.

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Peter F. Donnelly, one of the most important figures in Seattle’s arts community over the past 45 years, died Saturday after complications from pancreatic cancer.

He was 70.

Mr. Donnelly played a vital role in the development of not only the city’s arts groups but also the infrastructure that supports the arts.

He helped develop and headed programs that funded the arts, mentored artists and leaders of arts organizations, and brought together people and ideas.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who did more for the arts scene in the whole Puget Sound area than Peter Donnelly,” said Seattle Opera general director Speight Jenkins.

During Mr. Donnelly’s tenure as head of ArtsFund, from 1989 to 2005, the nonprofit that raises money for the arts in Western Washington more than doubled the money it gave each year. It also raised more than $10 million for an endowment fund.

“He’s absolutely a titan in the arts community,” said James Tune, current president and CEO of ArtsFund. “When Peter came to Seattle, Seattle was essentially unknown as an arts community. He has played a critical, if not the critical, role in making Seattle one of the top arts communities in the country.”

Mr. Donnelly arrived in Seattle in 1964 as a management fellow at the then-fledgling Seattle Repertory Theatre. Shortly after, the Rep’s board chose him to be its first managing director and later, producing director.

Mr. Donnelly was a prime mover in the building of the Rep’s Bagley Wright Theatre building — the first new facility on the Seattle Center campus since the World’s Fair in 1962.

He was instrumental in the development of a Building for the Arts state program that has delivered more than $57 million in state funds to more than 150 arts facilities.

Over the years, Mr. Donnelly also served as president of the Frye Art Museum and as vice chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts. He was on the boards of classical KING-FM 98.1, the U.S. Bank Washington State Advsiory Board, the Seattle Art Museum, the 5th Avenue Theatre, and the Kreielsheimer Remainder Foundation.

“He saw what the whole community might need. And he saw who it would take to get it done,” said Susan Trapnell, senior consultant with the Arts Consulting Group and a former managing director at Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre.

A celebration of Mr. Donnelly’s life will be held at 6 p.m. April 20 at Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Bagley Wright Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle.

Donations in Mr. Donnelly’s memory may be made to ArtsFund, online through www.artsfund.org, or by check to: ArtsFund, P.O. Box 19780, Seattle, WA 98109.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com