Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing inner city youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, and to offering exhibition opportunities for underrepresented artists and artists of color.
Rush was founded in 1995 by three brothers: Danny Simmons, visual artist and community builder; media mogul Russell Simmons; and Joseph (Rev. Run) Simmons of the legendary hip-hop group RUN-DMC. Their goal was to fill the gap that poor and minorities face in both accessing the arts and exhibition opportunities. The Simmons’ personal experience, as well as the experience of a number of their friends in the art world, led them to conceive of creating a venue that would welcome underrepresented artists – people of color, women, older artists etc. At a time when most New York City schools had little to no arts programming in the classroom, Rush also felt strongly that there was also a need to foster arts education for our young people. Out of these needs, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation was born. To jump-start the programs they hosted their first gala benefit at the Puck building in Manhattan, with Run DMC providing headlining entertainment.
After this first benefit, Rush Arts Gallery and Resource Center was opened in Chelsea. The gallery immediately began to exhibit the works of underrepresented artists and to be used as a space to nurture emerging audiences including children. A small amount of money was also granted to a few arts education groups around the city. After a number of years operating this way, our founders and board decided there was a need to expand the foundation’s ability to fund other organizations. After hiring our first Executive Director, RPAF created its signature event – Art For Life. The event allowed us to increase the community grants program three-fold and touch the lives of thousands more children. Also during this period of growth, RPAF expanded its grants program to include other opportunities for grant recipients to help create a community of young artists by providing opportunities for grantees to come together and share their common goals, experiences, and best practices.
In 2005, the board and staff did another organizational assessment and concluded that more focus should be put on developing our own educational programs to complement the work of our grantees. Rush education programs are designed to inspire students, provide positive alternatives to high-risk behaviors and support increased academic performance. Additionally, our exhibition programs provide services to underrepresented artists in ways that expand their audiences and professional opportunities, while simultaneously reaching out to expose community based audiences and our students with the work of these artists.