When Arnold Simonsen received the Spelman Awardfrom Florida Studio Theatre this spring, it marked one more honorific for the Longboat Key philanthropist. This one came after he funded the purchase of a modern building on First Street in Downtown Sarasota where FST will house costume and production space, and will bear Simonsen’s name on the building alongside fellow donor Ronda Montminy. The donation comes shortly after Simonsen granted FST a capping grant for new artist residences in the Rosemary District. “It is his vision and understanding of the strategic nature of the projects which he has supported that we so greatly appreciate,” said FST Board President Dennis McGillicuddy, upon bestowing Simonsen the award. Of course, his theater donations represent just one part of the generous resident’s giving. He made a $2.5-million gift to The Salvation Army that helped launch the Quality of Life by Choice program, and he’s donated generously to the American Cancer Society. Through the Arnold Simonsen Family Charitable Foundation, he’s directed grants to such culturally diverse causes as the Sarasota Opera and the Arcadia Rodeo, as well as to Habitat for Humanity Manatee and the Alzheimer’s Foundation.  The Longboat Key philanthropist moved here from Chicago in 2012 after spending 42 years as CEO on Simonsen’s Inc. Since his arrival here, he’s made perhaps his most indelible mark on the theater. As recently as 2016, The Players Performing Arts Studio brandished a building with the donor’s moniker, the education-focused Arnold Simonsen Players Studio. “He’s always been a great supporter of Players Theatre and Players Kids,” says Donna Defant, chairman of the Players Centre Board of Trustees.  But especially as Players started toward a move to Lakewood Ranch, Simonsen has directed his donations to ensure a strong stage presence in Downtown Sarasota, and his recent gifts to FST help do just that. FST spokeswoman Lydia Baxter says that Simonsen has been a patron since 2013, but in recent years co-produced two productions. He became a year-round subscriber at FST in 2017.

PHOTO BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.