By Autumn Murray | This article originally appeared in the Georgia Hollywood Review.
Artist Danny Simmons is a renowned Neo-African abstract expressionist painter, published author, poet, activist, and philanthropist. He has a degree in social work from New York University and a Master’s in public finance from Long Island University in Brooklyn. In his 20s, his mother encouraged him to quit the job that he hated at the Bureau of Child Support and become a painter.
Simmons founded Rush Arts in 1995 with his brothers, media mogul Russell Simmons and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons of the legendary hip-hop group, Run-DMC. Their goal for Rush Arts is to fill the gap that the disenfranchised and people of color face in both accessing the arts and exhibition opportunities. Danny and Russell also established Def Poetry Jam, which enjoyed long-running success on HBO and won a Peabody Award for the television show and a Tony for the Broadway version of the show.
Simmons’ work now appears in prominent institutions around the globe, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Smithsonian, and the United Nations. In 2021, he exhibited at the Mariposa Museum (Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts), and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
In 2022, Simmons is Artist in Residence with an exhibit at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), while also exhibiting at the Hudson Guild Gallery (Chelsea, New York), and August Wilson African American Cultural Center (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
The artist took time out of his busy schedule to tell Georgia Hollywood Review about his upcoming Inter- twined art series on display at Town + Culture Gallery in Atlanta, open to the public from February 19 to March 18, 2022.
DS: I created the Intertwined series during the start of the global pandemic. The artwork centers on themes of connection and isolation. Most of the paintings are combinations of African fabrics, other textiles, and paints. They are sort of mixed together in a way that they are intertwined, so it is hard to tell where one starts and the other begins.
How did you discover your love of art and poetry?
My mother, Evelyn, was an amateur painter. Growing up I would watch her painting on her tabletop easel. She would always bring home art supplies for me and teach me how to use them. She taught me how to paint. My love of poetry started with my father, Daniel. He was a poet and wrote a couple of novels.
What do you think your legacy will be?
My legacy will be the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (Rush Arts) in Philadelphia, which provides underserved youth with contemporary art education, and developing and supporting artists, curators, and new audiences.
Growing up, was there any competition between you and your brothers?
Honestly, no. We didn’t compete against each other as we were all focused on our own careers. Even Joey (Rev. Run) and Russell didn’t compete against each other, and they are in the same industry. We have always supported each other, and we are still close and talk several times a week to check-in.
What else can you tell us about your poetry?
Spoken word has been an important part of my life even before starting Def Poetry Jam with Russell. I have written five poetry books and I have a CD with legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter on Blue Note Records—The Brown Beatnik Tomes. It is a live recording from BRIC House in Brooklyn featuring my poetry and paintings, and Carter performing solo accompaniment along with instrumental interludes from his fleet trio.
Danny Simmons’ Intertwined series is presented with the support of The Works Upper Westside ATL and Platinum Sponsor FilmHedge, a fintech company that uses data to improve financing in TV and film.
Jon Gosier, FilmHedge’s founder, says, “We are more than proud to sponsor this event and exhibit. The only medium that has changed the world more than cinema is art. We are honored to make this contribution in support of all artists who seek to change minds and inspire.”
Simmons’ Intertwined series is curated by Denise Jackson at Town + Culture, who has created more than 100 art events and exhibitions of regional, national, and international artists. Jackson believes the mission of Town + Culture is to engage a broad audience with the arts. She is joined by co-curator and award-winning producer T. Bankolé in presenting the Intertwined art series.