Upon walking into the spacious Art for Life tent at Fairview Farms in Bridgehampton, guests were greeted with Kir Royals as they were transported to a place far, far away thanks to the exotic “Midnight at the Oasis” themed accents – like an ornately adorned photoshoot area where attendees could pose on a gold camel, a table filled with fragrant Middle Eastern spices, and other lavish touches.
Soledad O’Brien returned to host the 18th annual Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF) benefit, which raised over $1.1 million for RPAF, and brought out Star Jones, Darrelle Revis, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee Simmons, Joseph “Jojo” Simmons, Lyor Cohen and Xin Li, Sherry Bronfman, Andre Harrell, Kevin Liles, Stretch Armstrong, D-Nice, DJ M.O.S., DJ Cassidy, Fab Five Freddy, Chloe Flower, Clark Kent, Rich Medina, Elle Varner, Bevy Smith, Tony Touch, Simone & Dorian Missick, Clarissa and Edgar Bronfman, and Harvey Spevak.
“It’s the same issue except for it keeps getting exasperated year after year,” RPAF Chairman and Co-founder Russell Simmons told the crowd. “When kids struggle, there’s nothing greater than exercising creative muscles. The creative process is how we move from step to step in life. Beyond the political landscape that we find ourselves in, the political landscape before that or even before that, we’re here to do the work for our kids. You guys have helped us do that for 22 years.”
While RPAF Vice Chairman and Co-founder Danny Simmons proudly spoke about the organization’s growth. “One of the things that I’m most proud of is that the foundation itself is pushing forward, that we’ve moved beyond New York and Philadelphia, and opened a new gallery in Philadelphia. We purposely chose one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, not in spirit but economically. There were no other arts resources in this neighborhood,” he shared. “We are the first gallery, first community center where kids can come and do art with young artists who are bringing the Philadelphia arts community together, which has been very, very segregated in many ways. We have partnered with the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, the African American Museum, and Mural Arts program. So we’ve been there now a year and we’ve partnered with all the major institutions to bring art to our kids and to their community. So we need you now more than ever.”
After honorees Former President Consumer Beauty Division, Coty Inc., Esi Eggleston Bracey; rapper, author and producer, Chuck D; Chief Brand Officer, Uber, Bozoma Saint John; former President of Programming, BET Stephen G. Hill, and 2017 Featured Artist, Sanford Biggers were fêted, Russell Simmons led a unique live auction, where attendees could support RPAF by purchasing gold and blue balloons for $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 each. This year’s experience raised over $150,000 to support RUSH programs in only seven minutes.
Attendees also enjoyed an all-vegan menu created by Great Performances Chef De Cuisine Mark Russell, which included “chicken” bites and waffles; torta panzanella with roasted, smoked and marinated vegetables; herbed polenta diamond and pasta “Bolognese” and more.
As dinner was coming to a close, multiple-award winning artist and actress Cynthia Erivo took the stage for a riveting performance of Let it Be, Natural Woman, I Won’t Complain and I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Chuck D and DJ Lord followed with a surprise performance of Fight The Power, and The Originals closed out the evening.
For those who were unable to attend Art for Life, you can still support RPAF through an online Charitybuzz auction, which features incredible experiences like a meet and greet with Katy Perry at an upcoming show, a Will.i.am tour of his creative studio, tickets to Dave Chappelle’s upcoming Radio City Music Hall residency and more. The auction will close on Thursday, July 27. To place a bid, visit www.charitybuzz.com.
Proceeds from Art for Life support RPAF’s signature arts education and gallery programs.
For more information about Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, visit rushphilanthropic.org.