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7:55 PM / Friday August 19, 2022

9 May 2015

The “Badass Art Man” Danny Simmons

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May 9, 2015 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

By Kharisma McIlwaine

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First Friday in Philadelphia always offers a plethora of options in the art scene. This particular Friday brought me to the African American Museum for Danny Simmons’ Badass Art Man: Original Artwork of Danny Simmons Exhibit. A Brooklyn native, Danny Simmons is best known for his Tony Award winning work on the Broadway version of Def Poetry Jam. Danny and brother Russell Simmons have spent years helping cultivate the art and music world throughout New York and  Simmons’ body of work which includes published poetry, has been featured all over the world. He now brings his creative genius to Philadelphia. 

I have no words that can accurately describe the Badass Art Man exhibit. The eclectic mix of acrylic, textiles, sculptures, and photography was mind blowing.  Danny Simmons captures the joy, pain, and spirit of the African American experience in one abstract exhibit. The choice of colors, the patterns, and the techniques of the various artists included in this collection all tell a distinct story that  blend harmoniously with one another. Because he wasn’t present at the First Friday event, we were fortunate that Simmons included his thoughts in the digital installations that accompanied his exhibit. “I want people to see my work as something that touches them… If they want to call it art fine.  I want them to see it and walk away being more than they came in with. My paintings are intended to make a spiritual transformation for people, to open them up to seeing things another way… Not just looking at something and walking away from it.”

The beauty of art is that the interpretation of it is left to the discretion of the people experiencing it, and everyone walks away with something different.  I had the pleasure of speaking with art enthusiast Richard Watson, Exhibitions Manager and Artist in Residence for the African American Museum about the significance of Danny Simmons’ art exhibit. “Danny Simmons “Badass Art Man” represents the epitome of an entity that collects art, practices the discipline of art, and understands the contemporary art scene as we look at the variety of artists that exhibit works in galleries.  One of his motives is to embrace the cadre of young African-American artists… emerging artists who have talent, who have vision, and those who have the tenacity to stay the course to continue to work. Danny is effectively changing the scene of the arts for people engaged in the practice that sometimes find no vehicle through which to express their work. It’s important that Philadelphia have that.”

As a singer, songwriter, lover of all things creative and the sister of a visual artist, I understand the daily struggle and stamina required to be a professional artist. Eating, breathing and living art comes at a cost and that cost is often lots of closed doors, “No’s” and tears… But we love it so we push on! Mr. Watson echoed this sentiment and shared his thoughts on how The “Bad Ass Art Man” exhibit can help aid in overcoming some of the obstacles in the art arena. “We have been confronted with several issues of not just being able to break through but to sustain a sense of our own identity and our own language. There’s room on the playing field for so many others who may not get the opportunity through which we hope Danny’s visual and physical presence in Philadelphia can establish for the art scene. People need to see that the window can be opened wider and brighter.” 

Watson left me with this final thought. “Art goes beyond the discipline of learning how to duplicate something that’s in front of you, but you have to come from deep within in order to be creative.” Come experience The Badass Art Man: Original Artwork of Danny Simmons exhibit for yourself. The exhibit will be at the African American Museum through May 31st. For more information visit http://www.aampmuseum.org.

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