Profile: Daniel “Danny” Simmons Jr. (1953-)

Daniel “Danny” Simmons Jr. is a Neo-African abstract expressionist painter, a published author, poet and philanthropist. He is the older brother of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons (“Reverend Run” of Run–D.M.C.). He is the co-founder and Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides disadvantaged urban youth with arts access and education. As part of Rush Philanthropic, Simmons also founded Rush Arts Gallery and soon thereafter converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Both galleries provide exhibition opportunities to early and mid-career artists who do not have commercial representation through galleries or private dealers. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long-running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As the Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home. He has also published ” Deep in your best reflection” and “the Brown beatnik tomes”, two additional volumes of poetry. In 2015 Simmons moved to Philadelphia and opened Rush Arts Philadelphia gallery (RAP) to further the Rush Arts mission and to begin to create a national presence for the service organization. 

He is a former board member of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Conference of Artists. Today, his works appear in Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank, Schomburg Center for Black Culture, The Smithsonian, United Nations, and, on an international scope has shown work in France, Amsterdam and Ghana. In 2019, he was appointed to Philadelphia Museum of Art’s African American Collections Committee.

Early life

Simmons is the son of Daniel Simmons Sr., a truant officer and black history professor who also wrote poetry, and Evelyn Simmons, a teacher who painted as a hobby. Simmons grew up in Hollis, Queens. He earned a degree in social work from New York University and a master’s in public finance from Long Island University Brooklyn. He began painting after he realized how much he hated his job with the Bureau of Child Support. In 2012 he received an honorary PhD in fine arts from Long Island University Brooklyn.

Art work

Simmons, an abstract expressionist painter, has had his work shown nationally. Chase Manhattan Bank, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Deutsche Bank, the United Nations, and the Schomburg Center for Black Culture all show his work as part of their collections. On an international scope has shown work in France, Amsterdam and Ghana. The Brooklyn museum, as well as the Smithsonian African American Museum, have featured his work. His paintings can often be seen in his published books of poetry. He is also an avid collector of African art and comic books.

In 2019, he was appointed to Philadelphia Museum of Art’s African American Collections Committee.

Def Poetry Jam

Danny Simmons played an instrumental role in the conceiving of and co-producing the hit HBO show Def Poetry Jam, and won a Tony Award for the Broadway version of the show. Simmons is the co-executive producer of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry. Def Poetry of which episodes were produced for HBO from 2002 to 2007. Simmons came up with the idea for the series when a group of Simmons’s friends would gather and perform open mic nights at art galleries in the early 1990s. The poets did shows at the Nuyorican, Danny’s home, and an art gallery in Manhattan. Simmons then asked his younger brother Russell about extending the “Def Jam” name in a new direction. After many more live events and showcases Danny and his associates Stan Lathan, Bruce George and Bob Sumner managed to launch “Def Poetry Jam” as both a cable show and a Broadway play

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