Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF) did it for the children once again at their annual ART FOR LIFE Benefit on July 16th at Fairview Farms in Bridgehampton, NY. This year, Russell Simmons’ notable Foundation raised $1.25 million to directly benefit the Foundation’s signature arts education and gallery programs, which have directly served tens of thousands of inner-city youth over the past 20 years. Haute Living had to show support as this year’s official media partner.
The private gala, which had a “Back to the Future” theme this year, was hosted by Gayle King honored Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist; Star Jones, TV personality, lawyer and philanthropist; Frank Cooper III, CMO/CCO of BuzzFeed; James Cruz, President Bad Boy Management & Strategic Alliances; Suzanne de Passe, Co-Chair de Passe Jones Entertainment; Debra L. Lee, Chairman and CEO, BET Networks; Alex Waislitz, Founder & Chairman of the Thorney Investment Group Australia & Waislitz Family Foundation; and Artist Nari Ward for their support of the arts, career achievements, and overall commitment to our communities.
In true Russell Simmons fashion, the auction was no ordinary affair. For every $1000 donation made, a balloon would be attached to the donor’s chair. Russell himself started the auction off by buying 20 balloons as he introduced the evening’s auctioneer, Star Jones. Jones kept the momentum going, raising $150,000 in just seven minutes. The room began to fill with floating white balloons.
Guests dined on an all vegan menu dubbed the “compassionate menu” created by Great Performances Executive Sous Chef Mark Russell which featured a Hudson Valley succotash tart, mini meatless wellington, local peach croustade, wild hive farm rye flour croustade, harvest grape verjus, tandoori spiced cauliflower, curried chickpeas, cilantro oil and crispy kale presented on robust slices of whole cauliflower presented as a vegetable “bone-in steak.”
After dinner, six-time Grammy-nominated recording artist, producer and author Tyrese Gibson got the crowd on their feet with his chart-topping hits “Stay,” “Sweet Lady,” “How You Gonna Act Like That,” “Shame” and an impromptu song about the event. He then passed the mic to Doug E. Fresh for his performances of a medley of 1980s hip hop hits, followed by Whodini performing “Big Mouth,” “Friends,” Freaks Come Out at Night” and “One Love.” DJ M.O.S. kept the dance floor alive long into the night.
Angela Simmons and JoJo Simmons joined their uncles for the evening, making the event a true family celebration. Additional notable attendees included Busta Rhymes, Gayle King, Katie Couric, Miri Ben-Ari, DJ Cassidy, James Lipton, Jeffrey Wright, Hill Harper, Bozoma Saint John, Michelle Collins, Bobbi MacKenzie and Jessica White.
Artfully crafted cocktails created by ART FOR LIFE Sponsor BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin were featured throughout the evening. For the first time, an entirely vegan menu was served at the event, prepared and presented by Great Performances catering company. This year’s benefit was also generously supported by silver sponsor Merrill Lynch, bronze sponsor BET, and online charity partner CharityBuzz.