Danny Simmons’ new community art center and gallery Rush Arts Philly – RAP, for short – made its debut Saturday, featuring Guerrillas in the Midst: The Art of the Revolution.
For years, Danny Simmons has been mentioned in the same sentence with younger brothers Russell and Joseph, a.k.a. Rev. Run. More recently this also occurs with his namesake, nephew Daniel “Diggy” Simmons III. The abstract artist, poet, author, collector, and gallery founder has become a big deal in his own right, but he didn’t start out pursuing this artistic passion from a young age like his famous kin.
“I didn’t go to school for art. I went to school for being a social worker. My father was a proponent of ‘Get a job so you can have a pension and a stable life,’” Simmons said in an interview with The Philadelphia Daily News. “I started painting and writing more in earnest because social work is a hard job, so I found I needed to express myself. I said, ‘Let me start painting to unlock the creativity.’”
Simmons runs two famous art spaces in New York, but the lifelong New Yorker decided to relocate to Philadelphia last year.
“Philadelphia sort of feels like New York in the ’90s or the late ’80s. It’s full of possibility. Everybody’s enthusiastic about doing something, whereas in New York, people are little jaded. The people I’m meeting are pushing, trying to get things done,” he said.
Simmons swapped his Brooklyn brownstone for a place in Philly with a backyard large enough to store his immense collections, along with an old bank building.
“I’m never bored here. My gym is five blocks away. My comic books store, Amalgam, is right down the street. My son came with me, and his wife,” said Simmons. “I’ve been painting so much more than I was in New York. I’m a poet also, so I’ve been having poetry readings. And I’m writing another book … I love my neighborhood.”
This weekend, he had two exhibit openings in Philadelphia. The other, Danny Simmons: Mostly Philly, started Friday at Art Sanctuary.
“I started giving shows in and around [New York City] under the name of Rush Arts. Finally, I said, ‘Let me turn this into an organization – not a business, an organization,’” recalled Simmons. “I had a master’s degree in finance and social development. I turned to my brothers, who at that time were well on their way, for their support. Russell gave me space at Def Jam, and I started the Def Jam Art Show. I partnered on a gallery in Chelsea. We had huge art shows. Thousands of people would come. Every weekend: film, poetry – it was the beginning of spoken-word as a big art form.”
Simmons incorporated the Rush Arts Philly operation into the non-profit Rush Arts education center. The opening of Rush Arts Philly was a major milestone and a great opportunity to provide a space for a community that has been supportive of him and his famous family over the years.