Black-and-white photo of Denis Simpson smiling, with clasped hands under his chin.
Donor Funded

Denis Simpson Fund

Supporting Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

The idea for this fund came out of many internal Arts Club discussions throughout 2020 centered around how to best institute long-term, sustainable, systemic change. This endowment, which will help support ongoing apprenticeships, commissions, internships, and much more, will be put exclusively towards supporting the continued decolonization of the institution.

The Denis Simpson Fund is endowed in the Arts Club's Foundation, which means that the principal amount put into the fund will be invested and continue to grow over time. It's the gift that keeps on giving!


To read the Arts Club's Statement of Actions, click here.


Denis Simpson was a wonderfully gifted actor, singer, writer, director, and choreographer. He was also a true, consummate entertainer. From Ain't Misbehavin’ to Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Denis’s unique presence graced the Arts Club’s stages for 25 years in over 20 productions.

Two of the many highlights of Denis’s career include writing, directing, and starring in his one-man show Denis Anyone? (Revue Stage, 1995–1996)—which described his experience growing up Black in Canada and earned him a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award⁠—and co-writing and directing the musical Wang Dang Doodle (Granville Island Stage, 1999–2000).

Born in Jamaica, Denis arrived in Canada at the age of 8, spending his early years in Toronto. His career began at the age of 19 when he performed in the original Canadian production of Hair at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre. His face and talent became nationally known in 1978 when he was the host of the popular children’s TV series Polka Dot Door and an original member of the a cappella singing group The Nylons. Simpson appeared on screen many times, but his love was always the theatre.

He selflessly gave his time to countless charitable activities, including raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic and supporting fundraisers to benefit the cultural community of Greater Vancouver and Canada as a whole.

Denis is an inductee of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame. His sudden passing on October 22, 2010, deeply impacted those around him, including his fellow artists, colleagues, fans, and family.

His sister Gloria Reuben stated, "Everyone who loves Denis knows he would be thrilled and humbled that this very special fund at the Arts Club is being established in his name."

What is the Arts Club Foundation?

The Arts Club Foundation is a public foundation which was formed to solicit and receive legacies, gifts, grants, settlements, bequests, endowments, funds, and property of any kind and distribute funds and property. The Arts Club Society is the beneficiary of the Foundation.

The Foundation disburses income to the Society each year to be used for a variety of initiatives like the Denis Simpson Fund, Bill Millerd Artist Fund, Silver Commissions, and more.

What is an endowment?

An endowment fund is a permanent fund used as a way to ensure a consistent stream of income that can be used to support the Arts Club’s mission for years to come. Because the capital is invested and the principal investment is never drawn down, the fund provides stability and commitment for our future.

All funds designated to the Denis Simpson Fund are placed in the Arts Club Foundation’s endowment as a permanent investment. Over the past two years we’ve put almost $100,000 into this fund. The intention of the fund is to generate enough income annually to provide funding for apprenticeships, commissions, and other projects that provide greater representation for BIPOC theatre workers. The more money fundraised for the Denis Simpson Fund, the more funding we’ll have to create opportunities.

Since the principal in an endowment is protected, the fund will be able to generate income in perpetuity. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Who is in charge of the Arts Club Foundation?

Like the Arts Club Society, the Arts Club Foundation is managed by a volunteer board of directors. The Arts Club Board of Directors serve for a maximum of 6 years and meet quarterly.

How often will you be offering apprenticeships?

At the end of the season in August, we will review how the Foundation’s investments performed over the past year. With this information, the artistic team, along with our finance department, will then determine how many internships and apprenticeships will be possible in the coming year.

Who is receiving this money?

Prior to every season, the artistic team and EDIA officers at the Arts Club will seek to identify projects, as well as artists from equity-seeking groups, that would mutually benefit from a Denis Simpson Fund apprenticeship.