Painter, author, art collector, and arts entrepreneur Danny Simmons has joined the African American Collections Committee at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Simmons, 65, is the brother of Russell Simmons, with whom he co-founded and co-produced the influential HBO series Def Poetry Jam; and Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons of hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC. After many years based in Brooklyn, Simmons now lives in and operates all his philanthropic efforts out of Philadelphia.
“Since I’m still new to Philadelphia,” Simmons said by phone, “I’m looking forward to working with people trying to make a difference in the inclusion of people of color in the cultural life of the city. As the crown jewel among the city’s cultural institutions, it’s important that the museum take the lead. I did a lot of this work at the Brooklyn Museum and on the boards of other major institutions, and I was kind of missing it lately.”
He added that “it’s not just the museum reaching out into the community and trying to get people to come. It’s also going into the community with programs, doing your work where the people are. We know how much of a difference culture makes to children in underserved communities.”
The African American Collections Committee was founded at the museum in 2001 to help develop and catalog the museum’s holdings. Prominent in the committee’s work was the 2014 museum catalog Represent: 200 Years of African American Art and the namesake 2015 exhibit. Simmons brings his standing as an artist and noted collector of African American artwork. His abstract paintings hang in art establishments around the world, and his personal collections regularly travel to museums and universities throughout the nation.
With his brothers, Simmons is co-founder (1995) of the Rush Arts Foundation, which gives under-served urban youth exposure to the arts, as well as helping under-represented artists make and exhibit their art. The local branch of the foundation, Rush Arts Philly, opened in September 2016 in the Logan neighborhood, with a neighborhood-driven arts space and programs for local youth.
Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer at the museum, said, “We were introduced to Danny through his work with Rush Arts Philly and his other philanthropy. His stature in the arts and in pop culture, his expertise, and his creative energy will add substantially to the committee, and we’re thrilled he has our accepted our invitation."
Simmons is also producing the Def Poetry Jam Reunion, a traveling all-star show of noted poets and spoken-word artists. On April 26, 2019, the reunion comes to the Philadelphia Art Museum as part of the Finally Fridays series,