russell-simmons_web.jpgMIAMI — Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons recently surprised students at the Design & Architecture Senior High School (DASH) art gallery.

He was there Friday, March 13 to observe the students' artwork, congratulate them, and encourage them to follow their creative dreams.

“Most kids don’t have a chance to practice artistic expression. Throughout history, every society you see places a lot of value on arts and creativity,’’ Simmons said. “To make something happen, you have to imagine it first …and cultivating the imagination is what the Rush Foundation group does.”

Simmons and his older brother, Danny, were in town to celebrate Art For Life Miami Beach 2009, a star-studded event that took place on March 14 at the Fontainebleau Resorts in Miami Beach. Simmons sought to raise money there to support arts youth education.

Russell, Danny and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in 1995. The foundation is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with arts exposure, access and education.

The foundation also provides exhibition opportunities to early and mid-career artists, and artists of color.

“We came from a very creative family,’’ Danny Simmons told the South Florida Times. “We were taught how important the arts were and when I was coming up there was a lot of arts education in the schools but not so much now.  So we just want to be able to fill that gap in kids’ lives.’’

So far, Rush Philanthropic has served more than 700,000 urban youth, and has directed millions in funding from donors including individuals, foundations and leading corporations to underserved youth. It has also established two exhibit and educational facilities.

Young people in Miami-Dade schools are in dire need of such help.

The Miami-Dade School Board is proposing to cut $56 million from the school district’s budget.  The move will directly affect the arts and music programs in area schools.

To help fill the funding gap for arts education, Rush Philanthropic held the Art for Life Miami Beach event on March 14.

Hosted by Entertainment TV reality star Kim Kardashian, the Art For Life Miami Beach benefit gala brought out many celebrity supporters such as actress Vivica A. Fox, soul and R&B singer Betty Wright, former Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning and his wife, Tracy, Miss Africa USA Nyasha Zimucha and many others.

Fox told the South Florida Times that she is a strong supporter of arts preservation, and that she recognizes how quickly art is diminishing from schools across the country.

“I played basketball, volleyball, track, and all those activities made me who I am today,’’ Fox said.  “The schools right now are basically prisons and we can’t destroy art…it’s too important for the kids.  Our kids need other outlets.’’

Russell Simmons and the event’s organizers hoped that the star-studded night would raise enough money for the organization to continue supporting artistic endeavors throughout the country.

Simmons summed up the whole mission of his efforts in one line: “Art saves lives—period.”

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Russell Simmons

The More You Know

To learn more about the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, visit