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42nd Annual Bal Africain®, “de Passionné,” Celebrates Culture and Community

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

  • The Detroit Institute of Arts and Friends of African and African American Art Invite Metro Detroiters to Experience the Passion
  • Group Honors Contributions of Entrepreneur and Award-Winning Producer Suzanne de Passe

Detroit, MI (Friday, May 6) — The 42nd annual Bal Africain®, “de Passionné,”—which means passion in French—will take place on Saturday, June 25 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. During this celebration of culture and community, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA) will honor award-winning television, film, and music producer and media entrepreneur Suzanne de Passe. WDIV-TV4’s Rhonda Walker will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

Attended annually by over 500 guests, Bal Africain®—a one-of-a-kind evening of art, fine dining and dancing—has earned its place as one of metro Detroit’s premier fundraising initiatives. Revenue generated from Bal is used by the FAAAA to sponsor lectures, fund educational programs, and to acquire works of art for the Detroit Institute of Arts’ African, African-American, and Haitian collections.

Sandra E. Ulsh of Ford Motor Company Fund and Roderick D. Gillum of General Motors are the corporate chairpersons for this year’s event. The 2005 Bal Africain® Gala Chair is Vivian Rogers Pickard, director of GM Corporate Relations.

“The theme of this year’s event is symbolic of our purpose. We are passionate about exposing others to diverse forms of cultural expression and promoting art as an experience designed to enhance our understanding of the world around us,” said Ulsh, president of the Ford Motor Company Fund. “Suzanne de Passe’s success in the field of entertainment is not only a testament to her artistic vision, but it is also representative of that same desire to foster a sense of community by creating shared meaning through art.”

“The metropolitan Detroit community is passionate about Bal Africain®,” said Gillum, chairman of the GM Foundation, and vice president of GM Corporate Responsibility and Diversity. “Each year, Bal Africain® is one of the highlights on our community calendar; it combines a unique celebration of African-American art and culture with public acknowledgment of the contributions of cultural icons such as Suzanne de Passe. GM is pleased to join the DIA and the Friends of African and African American Art in their salute to such a gifted and prolific producer of wholesome and memorable film and music.”

Suzanne de Passe, chairman and CEO of de Passe Entertainment, began her career at Motown Records in 1968 as creative assistant to Berry Gordy and eventually became president of Motown Productions. Her credits include an Academy Award nomination for co-writing the screenplay “Lady Sings the Blues” and Emmy and NAACP Image Awards for executive-producing “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever,” and “Motown Returns to the Apollo.” She also served as producer for the highly acclaimed miniseries “Lonesome Dove” and the four-hour NBC miniseries “The Temptations.” De Passe, a member of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the subject of two Harvard Business School case studies, is also the recipient of a Women in Film Crystal Award and a Revlon Business Woman of the Year Award.

For 43 years, the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA) has dedicated itself to cultivating and promoting a deeper appreciation and understanding of the rich artistic legacies of Africa, African Americans, and the African diaspora. The DIA boasts one of the earliest major collections of African art in an American museum, dating to the 1920s. Over the past 40 years, FAAAA has funded the purchase of additional African pieces that have significantly elevated the stature of the collection.

“The DIA is fortunate to have such an active, long-standing auxiliary as the Friends of African and African American Art,” said Graham W.J. Beal, DIA director. “Their commitment to raising funds for African and African American art acquisitions and educational programs is of tremendous value to the museum. We appreciate their efforts in making Bal Africain® the success it has been year after year.”

Event supporters include platinum sponsors Ford Motor Company and General Motors and gold sponsors GMAC Financial Services and Neiman Marcus.

Individual tickets for Bal African® start at $400. An array of sponsorship packages is available. A portion of all contributions is tax-deductible.

For more information, call (313) 833-1049 or visit

Programs are made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.

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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range, and depth.

Currently, the DIA is presenting a dynamic schedule of programs and activities for all ages, even as the museum’s building is undergoing a major renovation. Visitors can enjoy some of the DIA’s “greatest hits” while the museum prepares for an entirely new installation when renovations are completed in late 2007.