THE BLOG

Art Through the Eyes of a Legend: Danny Simmons

06/12/2014 12:15 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2014
Eugene Gologursky via Getty Images

I have no idea about the world of art. In school, I just loved colors. I tried my hand at sketching, calligraphy, photography, fashion design, dance and piano. You name it, I tried. it. I was up for anything, and just wanted to see what would stick.

My parents believed in allowing us the opportunity to explore the arts. It was never forced on us but always encouraged. And we had the general understanding that we couldn't come home without having some form of art class on our report card in any given semester. They wanted us to have a balanced view of life so we were given the freedom to try new experiences.

My father was an avid reader, a scholar even, of some sort. He loved politics and he was passionate about literature. My mother, on the other hand, was obsessed with fashion, the world of design, good taste and great manners that would allow us to one day entertain with style and grace.

Often times various musicians frequented our homes. Band members, singers, performers and music writers. My mother insisted that our home was filled with music and art as much as possible. I hated it. Let me rephrase that statement -- I lacked appreciation for what my parents were exposing me to. That is, until now.

I now find myself following in my parents' footsteps and have opened my mind, home, and contacts to various forms of art. I now value all the things my parents laid the groundwork for and wish to pass the love of the arts down to my children.

Thus the reason why interacting with Danny Simmons has become such as honor. Listening to the sort of upbringing his parents instilled in him and his brothers have let me see the similarities that most black, middle-class families have in wanting well-rounded children too. Black parents seek diversity for their children and many, like my parents, know the politics of art. They understand how the world of visual arts is the platform for great conversation. So it's surprising to me that when you look at the state of schools, the enrichment of art is not reflected in the classroom but instead at the mercy of budget cuts. Art, it seems, is always the first to go.

Somehow the world sends the message that being an artist such as a painter or musicians means you can't make a respectable living. The effect this causes makes me wonder... If we were to take away all the artists, their work that graces our homes, our work place, our streets, do away with our museums, galleries, libraries, what would we have left? What would be the condition of our society? Our cereal boxes, our clothing, our fashion, our cars... Everything is infected by the art world, whether or not this fact is apparent to us in our day-to-day hustle and bustle.

How would we be able to deal with tragedy, with hurt, with sorrow, with one another without the arts? Where would our inspirations stem from? How would we heal? And how would those who feel an artist cannot have a "real" career respond to my questions? I'm afraid to ask.

Thank goodness Danny Simmons didn't take some of those opinions to heart, because his own drive and passion for the arts has made him an advocate to the art community to ensure that the wonderful opportunities the art world has made available to him is also granted to every young person of all races who wants access to it.

The Simmons family has shown us firsthand that art, literature, music (even rap), business and politics can co-exist with the proper support system.

So for the next 28 minutes... Listen if you will to Danny Simmons, who will tell us in his own words what art means to him, community and to society as a whole.