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Russell Simmons Celebrates 15th Anniversary of Art for Life Benefit

Bridgehampton got a little more colorful Saturday when Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Art for Life benefit.

Prior to the start of the program, which was emceed by Soledad O’Brien, guests were encouraged to tour the displays of artwork by Rush students, which included renditions of the famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster designed by Shepard Fairey.

Although the artwork took center stage at Fairview Farms, Simmons made sure to acknowledge some of those who have helped his foundation (co-founded with brothers Danny and Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons) reach more than 3,000 inner-city children every year. Although Simmons introduced Michael Bloomberg as an honoree, Bloomberg talked about how Simmons should be the one receiving the accolades, even if they don’t always see eye to eye.

“Sometimes he and I have disagreed, and I’ve defended his right to be wrong and I will continue to do that,” Bloomberg joked. “But we’re all here to help each other… Russell Simmons is one of those people who continuously does it.”

But the former mayor of New York proceeded to talk about the importance of art.

“Art is something that helps us think,” he added. “Art is something that broadens our experiences and makes us appreciate each other. If we teach our kids to appreciate art then when they’re adults they’ll help the next generation.”

The Rush Foundation also honored Lava Records’ CEO Jason Flom, but he, too, took the time to commemorate Simmons’ efforts. The music exec joked that his fellow music mogul has redefined the term “Renaissance Man.”

“It was Russell who brought Shakespeare to rap, brought comedy to hip hop and most important of all, he brought half-naked models to yoga,” he quipped. “Now that’s what I call a real contribution to society.”

Although the evening included a special presentation of the inaugural recipients of the Kimora Lee Simmons Scholarship Fund, the fashion designer was unable to attend. She had donated $1 million to her namesake fund.

Before Naughty By Nature, Kurtis Blow and Doug E. Fresh took to the stage to perform, Simmons rallied the crowd into donating more to his foundation. Before he got off the stage, he had raised about $286,000. There was also an online auction via Charitybuzz that included meet and greets with Michael Strahan, Nick Cannon and LL Cool J.

(Pictured: Robert Kraft, Russell Simmons, Ming Lee Simmons and Rick Ross at the Art for Life Benefit)

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