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INTERVIEW: Russell Simmons On Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, "Art For Life" And More

Nicole Barylski

Russell Simmons and his daughters Ming Lee and Aoki Lee. (Courtesy Photo)

On Saturday, July 15, Russell Simmons, Danny Simmons, and Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation are hosting Art For Life Midnight at the Oasis. The fantasy, opulence, magic, and wonder themed evening at Fairview Farms in Bridgehampton will feature performances by multiple award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, The Originals, and other exciting surprises.

We recently caught up with Russell Simmons to learn more.

What inspired you and your brothers to establish the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation?

RS: My parents were artists, my brothers are both artists - both Danny and Joseph, when we were in school we had access to art programs and music programs. They allowed me to get to where I am today, because I exercised creativity when I was younger. I always say that schools without art are like prisons, and that art allows kids and people to dream their ways out of their struggles - it's true. That is what we aim to do and inspire in our youth through Rush.

This year's event will honor Sanford Biggers, Esi Eggleston Bracey, Chuck D, Stephen G. Hill, and Bozoma Saint John. (Courtesy Photo)

How has the organization grown over the years?

RS: Rush is over 20 years running now! And we have been able to touch thousands of lives over the years, starting in New York primarily, and we have now reached into Los Angeles where I now primarily live. Danny, my brother, moved to Philly a couple of years ago and we have been able to expand our Rush Arts presence there more over the years. In Miami, we also have a large presence with partnerships with the Perez Art Museum (PAMM) and more partnerships around the country. We have not only been able to grow across the country geographically, but we have grown with our students, as they grow. Our youngest of students that started in our Rush programs and who are now in college are able to receive scholarship funds for their studies via our recently established scholarship fund - we support them from the very beginning formative years all the way through their professional careers.

Art for Life is quite the party. What are some of your favorite moments from previous years?

RS: You know our supporters and friends tell me something new they loved about Art For Life every year- some still bring up the year I went on stage and danced with Salt-N-Pepa, some loved the year Rick Ross came out, some the year Bell Biv Devoe and Naughty by Nature brought the entire crowd on stage. The year we announced the scholarship fund. Dave Chappelle's acceptance speech. So many, and so many more memories to be made...

The evening always features and impressive auction and art exhibition. (Courtesy Photo)

What made you choose Sanford Biggers, Esi Eggleston Bracey, Chuck D, Stephen G. Hill, and Bozoma Saint John as this year's honorees?

RS: There are so many reasons why each are worthy, their common traits, their leadership and social consciousness. They are leaders in business, trailblazers in music, the arts, and overall self-less human beings! I could speak further on each of them, but you're going to have to wait until my honoree presentation speeches.

Who would be your dream Art for Life guest performer?

RS: I love so many - it wouldn't be fair to single one out, but Cynthia Erivo is performing this year and The Originals DJ's are coming out and maybe we have another guest favorite coming out too!! This year's my favorite/dream...

2015 honorees Ava DuVernay and Simon de Pury. (Courtesy Photo)

Where do you see the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in ten years?

RS: The way things are looking now, we have to work harder to ensure the arts and creativity and dreams are in the lives of our youth and communities. Ten years from now I want our Rush Kids to be running our foundation and want Rush to continue to be the organization, the foundation thousands can point to and say we helped them along the way.

Tickets to Art for Life start at $1,500.

Fairview Farm is located at 19 Horsemill Lane in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit artforlife.rushphilanthropic.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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