Russell Simmons raises 1.5 million dollars for the arts at annual Art For Life Benefit
Russell Simmons raises 1.5 million dollars for the arts at annual Art For Life Benefit (Photo by Nia Hamm)

Celebrities, activists, artists and media descended upon Bridgehampton, New York last Saturday July 28 to help raise more than $1.5 million — and counting — for Danny and Russell Simmons’ fourteenth annual Art For Life Benefit.

The event, held at the Fairview Farms estate in East Hampton, helped to raise money for the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides arts education opportunities for inner-city youth.

“It’s very important that kids get a chance to practice and appreciate art,” Russell Simmons said of his inspiration for the benefit and organization, because, “it informs everything that we do. Nothing happens without creativity.”

Guests included Michael Strahan, Nicole Murphy, Anthony Anderson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Star Jones, Angela Simmons and more. Youthful new faces such as Skylar Diggins, Olivia Culpo, Nana Meriwether, Melanie Fiona and Tahira Jose were also seen on the scene to bring attention to the importance of promoting culture among our youth.

Soledad O’Brien hosted the gala, while special performances included Estelle, Rick Ross and Maxwell. There was even a surprise performance by Doug E. Fresh.

This year’s theme, ‘A Field of Dreams,’ highlighted the creativity of New York City youth and honored individuals in the community for their contributions, career achievements and philanthropic work.

Honorees included Samuel Englebardt and William D. Johnson of Demarest Films, writer Walter Mosley, Ann Pasternak of Creative Time and filmmaker Tyler Perry.

Attendees agreed that the arts are an integral part of any child’s upbringing. “As a parent I want them to be able to read. I want them to be able to write and do mathematics. That’s all really important. But they also, to be human beings, have to understand how to express themselves,” Soledad O’Brien said.

The final amount raised by the Art For Life Benefit the will be announced when the online auction, hosted by Charitybuzz, closes on August 7.

Follow Nia Hamm on Twitter @niaahamm

This article was updated to accurately reflect that the location of the event is not owned by Russell Simmons. A previously published version stated that he owns the Fairview Farms estate.