Building a Community Space

by Amanda Moths

The 2017-18 Season is starting off with exciting new additions to the FST campus. The first of which is the newly named Arnold Simonsen and Ronda Montminy Theatre Wing. Florida Studio Theatre received a generous $1 million gift from Mr. Arnold Simonsen for the purchase of 1234 1st Street, located adjacent to FST’s administrative parking lot. The new building will provide much needed room for additional workspaces and rehearsal studios, as well as accommodations for the company’s growing production needs.

FST held a celebratory dedication of the building on October 4th. Mr. Simonsen and Ms. Montminy are ardent supporters of the arts. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Mr. Simonsen shared how impressed both he and Ms. Montminy were with FST’s productions: “I saw what Florida Studio Theatre was doing and we were greatly impressed with the performances they put on. There are amazing people here.”

The dedication of another building project, the Kretzmer Artist Housing, will take place in December 2017. The new building received its name through a lead gift made by Ernie Kretzmer in memory of his wife, Alisa, and will provide accommodations to future visiting artists, interns, and apprentices. Mr. Kretzmer is a fervent supporter of the arts, and last October, at the Arts and Cultural Alliance’s annual Celebration of the Arts award ceremony, Mr. Kretzmer received the Philanthropy Award for his support of several local organizations.

Other contributions were made to the Kretzmer Artist Housing by the state of Florida, sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, Ed and Susan Maier, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Bank of America Client Foundation, Bank of America, and N.A. Trustee, as well as individual donors.

Continuing to provide visiting artists with comfortable housing is an ongoing project for FST. Actor Jeffrey Plunkett, recently seen in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, said, “One of the challenges of doing regional theater is being away from home. A complex where artists can enjoy one another’s company is a great way to connect, network, foster new friendships, and forget a little bit that they may be far away from family and friends. FST takes great care in providing its visiting artists homes away from home. ”

Some of these artists will be interns and apprentices from all over the country, who otherwise would not be able to afford housing in Sarasota. In an interview with Your Observer, Richard Hopkins, Producing Artistic Director, affirmed, “FST hopes to raise the value of art in our society. One way to raise the value of art is by raising the ways we value our artists. And providing them with an excellent artistic home is a good first step.”

Both new buildings are helping to fulfill the organization’s goal of creating a public plaza on campus. These new additions to the property will allow FST to continue to strive to be a place where artists and audience members come together to create and enjoy relevant and engaging art.

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