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Hip-Hop Legend Russell Simmons Gives Kids The Gift Of Art

Russell Simmons speaks onstage at the Rush HeARTS Education Luncheon at The Plaza Hotel on February 14, 2014 in New York City..
Russell Simmons speaks onstage at the Rush HeARTS Education Luncheon at The Plaza Hotel on February 14, 2014 in New York City..Bryan Bedder/Getty Images For Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation

Russell Simmons does it all. Whether you think of him as a hip-hop mogul or fashionista, one thing can't be denied, he is a cultural icon. Forbes Magazine recently named the business magnate one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities” and USA Today calls him one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” professing him to be a “hip-hop pioneer” that has influenced music, fashion, finance, jewelry, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy.

Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation was founded in 1995 by brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons. Over the past 19 years, this organization has provided inner-city youth with significant exposure and access to the arts as well as offered exhibition opportunities for emerging and underrepresented artists. In addition to the 2,900 students served annually in its education programs, each year Rush exhibits the work of dozens emerging and community-based artists in its galleries, and welcomes over 10,000 gallery visitors to its spaces in Chelsea, Manhattan (Rush Arts Gallery) and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (Corridor Gallery).

Q: What is your charity & why is it important to you?

Russell: Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. We underwrite art education for inner city school kids and we create programs so that the kids can learn to practice and appreciate art. It’s a critical part of our education process that has been left out of our schools and we want to educate our legislature and others and remind our community how important it is. Then, we also want to educate and give practice, appreciation and opportunities to as many kids as we can.

Q: What inspired you to do this?

Rusell: My father, mother and brother are all artists and I know how it saved and changed their lives. I am [also] an artist and I know how important it is for the process of being a good citizen and good giver. When you look inside, you find that you don’t have to become a sheep. Without this kind of vision that comes from looking inside, communities fall apart.

Q: What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?

Russell: I have been so fortunate. There has been so many nice things that I can't come up with one.