“We’re twenty years in and we’re walking in with a million dollars,” Russell Simmons told Hamptons.com as we greeted him at the Art for Life Hamptons Gala. He was also walking in with a lot of women in beaded headbands, channeling flappers. It was a Roaring Twenties theme, in honor of the 20th anniversary of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the brainchild of brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph “Rev. Run” (of Run DMC), which seeks to bring art education back to the schools. This was the fourth year in a row Simmons had raised a million dollars before the auction even began. The large swell of support included letters from our President, Governor and Mayor.
Soledad O’Brien once again hosted. Bell Biv DeVoe and Elle Varner performed. The evening honored Dave Chappelle, Michaela and Simon de Pury, and Ava DuVernay. Art for Life included music by DJ M.O.S. and Wangechi Mutu as the Featured Artist. Star Jones, Loren and JR Ridinger served as Honorary Chairs.
“Art education is becoming the most important component in education because it teaches problem solving,” Russell told us. “Whatever is in the library is also in your Google Glasses, so now, what do we have to do? Be problem solvers. Use our creative muscles. Therefore, we need to practice creative pursuit. That’s critical. So art … is probably the most important thing you can put in a school today. We’re supplementing it. We’re promoting it but we need to make really sure it starts to accelerate. We’re pushing gas on the idea of putting art in the schools. The governor will be here and we’ll talk to him about it.” Although the Foundation continues to grow, Simmons lamented, “In inner cities in particular, the arts programs are gone.”
Danny Simmons spoke to the room about their upbringing. “My father, when I was six and Russell was two, had us out on the picket lines marching for social justice,” he said. “We did that every weekend with him. We watched him lay down in front of tractors and cranes to stop segregating construction. All of that sunk in. That’s why it’s so important to plant a seed in a child’s mind about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“We had a mother who was painter and a father who was a writer,” he continued. “So those seeds were planted within ourselves that creativity was really, really important.” Now, the Simmons brothers pass on their parents’ lessons to a new generation, part of their subtle social justice campaign to empower inner city kids.
Art for Life Event Chairs included Daniel Bass; Michell Gadsden-Williams and David Jamal Williams; Kimberly Hatchett; Rhonda R. Mims; Raquel Oden, Merrill Lynch; Camilla Olsson; Josue Sejour, The Sejour Group; and Jim Williams, Williams Telecommunications. Kimora Lee Simmons Scholarships were awarded. Gayle King, Valentino Carlotti, Sherry Bronfman, Erika and Kevin Liles, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Angela Simmons, Aoki Lee, Russell Simmons Jr., Ming Lee, Tangle Murray, “The Real Housewife of New York City” star LuAnn de Lesseps, Sara Herbert-Galloway, Barry Klarberg, Jennifer and Glenn Myles were among the guests.
For more information about rushphilanthropic.org.