Art merged with philanthropy at Russell Simmons’ Art for Life Gala in the Hamptons this weekend. The 20th anniversary (yes, count ’em the big 2-0) brought out habitual hermit Dave Chappelle and ‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay. The odd pair were recognized for their artistic abilities. And helped raise money for Russell Simmons’ RUSH Philanthropic Arts Foundation that finances arts programs in schools and galleries.
Funnyman Chappelle didn’t mince words about art saving his life, and it being used to reveal some deep seated issues (cough…racism… cough) and disturbing societal patterns (cough…police brutality against minorities… cough) still present.
“I went to an arts high school when shit was awful; there was a crack epidemic and AIDS, and all kinds of shit was happening, and the National Guard was policing DC and I found out about this arts program, and it changed my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
“And now look at me today! Here I am with the “Winners Circle” in the Hamptons. And I have a ‘Great Gatsby’ hat on… I can say honestly that I’m happy. I can stay home on Tuesday nights and watch (Keegan Michael) Key and (Jordan) Peele do my show. And it doesn’t hurt me at all. It doesn’t hurt me at all. I’m just joking y’all.”
Jokes aside, he hinted at how art could be instrumental in making a change.
” The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy. A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a T-Shirt and before I can wear that one, there’s another kid (killed) and I’m running out of closet space.”
Hopefully he won’t need anymore.